Run the Jewels' RTJ2 For Album of the Year: Our Review

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Finally, it's here.

After a brilliant pre-release marketing plan that saw them raising $40,000 for a cat sound remix amongst other things, Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) have made RTJ2 available as a free download three days ahead of its official release.

To answer the questions your reviewer assumes you, the reader, may have, yes, it was worth the wait, and yes, it's better than Run the Jewels' self-titled debut.?

Anyone who has heard Run the Jewels or either of Killer Mike or El-P's latest solo efforts before can attest to the obvious chemistry that arose from what at first seemed like an oddball pairing - El-P at the front of the indie/Def Jux movement, whose sound was frequently referred to as "dystopian" by reviewers who were so impressed with his skills as a producer that they forgot to pay attention to how good of a lyricist he is and Killer Mike, who was doing the whole "Atlanta sound" thing since its inception but who also couldn't seem to shake the Outkast affiliation and get the credit he deserved as a solo artist.

RTJ2 is a strange blend of futuristic battle rap that is at once fun and forward-thinking, lackadaisical and envelope-pushing.

In a genre of frequent guest appearances and collaborations, RTJ2 is innovative in a way that makes being innovative looks easy (namely by having two rappers who are aware of each others' presences rather than simply trying to outdo one another).

It doesn't reinvent the wheel nor is it trying to, but it makes recent attempts at a similar aesthetic (*cough* Watch the Throne *cough*) seem pitiful in comparison.

Since the album is free, the best advice your reviewer can give is to stop reading and listen to the damn thing. "Lie, Cheat, Steal" has the two most virtuosic verses (that double time) either of the rappers have laid down in their careers (maybe excepting El-P's "Smithereens (Cryin')").

Both would be impressive in their own right, but are made so much better with duo's call-and-response dynamic.

Fans of I'll Sleep When You're Dead-era El-P will appreciate the song's hook being delivered via that trademark helium-voiced robot effect as well.

Highlight "Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)" is a prison-revolt anthem that sees an excellent guest appearance from Zach De La Rocha (formerly of Rage Against the Machine). De La Rocha's voice is sampled to form the backbone of the beat, but he also delivers a verse that's (fittingly) stocked full of RATM's angry populism of yore.

("See the only thing that close quicker than our caskets be the factories").

With their sophomore release, Run the Jewels seem to be - ever so slightly - acquiring the lean of a mainstream-targeted sound. The Travis Barker-featuring "All Due Respect" is laced with production flourishes that wouldn't sound out of place on a Diplo album and try getting "Love Again (Akinyele Back)" - with its charming refrain of "dick in her mouth all day" - out of your head.

This isn't "selling out" and it shouldn't alarm the underground fan, but hopefully it translates to wider success for the duo, who are proving to be extremely good marketers in an age where playing music doesn't exactly pay the bills anymore.

RTJ2's biggest (and only) problem is getting through it without rewinding or playing tracks over and over again. It has all the charm of the self-titled, but the tracks here benefit from more focus and a longer incubation time.

It's both more immediately rewarding and reveals more about itself upon repeat listens.

El-P and Killer Mike have trimmed the fat and honed their respective skills, culminating in a release that's certainly the best hip-hop of album of 2014, if not the best in general.