If you’re a fan of hip-hop, or at least good hip-hop, and haven’t heard Run The Jewels, shame on you. RTJ is made up of NYC based rapper-producer, El-P and Atlanta based rapper Killer Mike. Formed only in 2013, RTJ has been gracing stages and delivering an unforgettable sound to audiences everywhere. The duo’s first album, Run The Jewels, was released in 2013 and followed up by Run The Jewels 2, released in October of 2014. Since it’s release, it’s been receiving some worthy attention. It peaked at 50 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, 9 on the R&B chart, and 6 on the Rap chart.
RTJ’s no apologies, politically charged lyrics, and quick, aggressive wordplay are a breath of fresh air in a decade where hip-hop is just plain sad. The recently released video for “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck,)” featuring Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine is reminiscent of a time when music meant something and could make a change. Why else would Zack de la Rocha be involved? This is not to say there aren’t bands out there making a real difference through their music and actions, but it’s harder to come by with so much saturation in the music scene.
The intro to “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck)” sets off with the recognizable repetition of “Run them jewels fast, run them, run them jewels fast,” before the beat drops. The video is extremely relevant, and important to what we’re seeing in our country today. The entire video sees a young African American male and a Caucasian police officer in a scuffle. Each is fighting for something, but cannot overcome the other. Much like the recent acts of violence that have sparked worldwide protests and outrage, the video questions what exactly is going on in the minds of the people involved in such altercations, and the tiring struggles they go through.
A message on the RTJ website from the director of the video, AG Rojas, tells a bit about the shoot and his reasons for directing it. He states that the characters in the video, just like the real people they portray, are people. “They’re not stereotypes. They’re people – complex, real people and, as such, the power had to shift between them at certain points throughout the story.” The fact that they are people is reiterated in the beginning and ending scenes as the characters are exhausted from their encounter with each other, and there is nothing left to do but just exist. They sit on opposite sides of a bed breathing heavily, and ultimately wondering what just happened and why. It is a strong visual especially when the relevance of it is taken into account.
“Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck) is the third single off Run The Jewels 2. You can see a slightly grainy live version of the song performed here.
Run The Jewels is as cool as their bold and intriguing logo. The hand making the shape of a gun, and pointing at a gold chain can mean so many things. Killer Mike and the El-P have brought to hip-hop something that’s been largely missing since the 90’s. Sending a positive message through lyrics somehow got lost between Public Enemy and the likes of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who are luckily still around today. There are a handful of noteworthy rappers currently making socially conscious music like Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks and Akala. Along with them, RTJ is stepping up to fill a void in the hip-hop scene, and is doing it well.
Run the Jewels will be playing Brooklyn’s Northside Festival in June. You can also catch them on June 19th at the FireflyFestival in Delaware.
Article by: Ashley Rodriguez