There’s a rumble in the distance. It builds on itself, getting louder and louder until a voice emerges with a boom:
We return from the depths of the badland
With a gun and a knife in our waistband.
Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan
He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan
Threatening? In-your-face? Endlessly entertaining? It can only mean one thing – rap-duo Run the Jewels is back with “Talk to Me,” the first single off their long-awaited Run the Jewels 3, released through the Adult Swim Singles series. Topical, ferocious, swaggering, and loud, Run the Jewels, or RTJ for short, simultaneously capture a contentious political climate and announce their booming return to the rap scene.
Run the Jewels, made up of Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike and New York-based rapper and producer El-P, has only been around since 2013, when they released their self-titled LP online for free. But as individuals, Mike and El-P have been around for nearly two decades. Between them, the two have put out a combined 13 albums since 1997.
Since the release of Run the Jewels 2 in 2014, RTJ has slowly been sharing short clips of music off of the group’s upcoming Run the Jewels 3, expected to drop in the next few months. But “Talk to Me” is the first full cut off the new album and it carries the booming production that has become to group’s signature.
The song is dripping in swagger, bravado, and urgency. The duo tear through their verses like they have nothing to lose, barely pausing to breathe as they spit bars over production that’s relentlessly ominous. As producer, El-P spends the first two and a half minutes of the song building to an epic climax, a fifteen second explosion of twisted beats and distortion.
It’s not only the sound that’s dark – Mike and El-P touch on hot-button issues like election politics, militancy, government surveillance, and Black Lives Matter. Between verses, the song takes a brief interlude for a reading of Ephesians 6:12, warning people of the power of evil spirits. This isn’t new territory for RTJ, no strangers to political activism. The majority of the group’s catalog confronts racial and social divides head-on, and even RTJ’s less politically charged music is a dark force to be reckoned with.
With the single kicking off the countdown to the release of Run the Jewels 3, long-time fans will be happy to know that it seems Killer Mike and El-P haven’t changed a bit. Amid all the darkness, RTJ still finds time for some fun. Mike talks about Donald Trump’s hair and compares him to Satan, while El-P shouts out the Shark Tank judges, claims his “dick got a Michelin star,” and accuses Baby Jesus of killing Hitler. Not surprising from a group who put out a remake of their own album with all of the beats swapped out for cat sounds.
It wouldn’t be Run the Jewels without a little bit of everything.