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HomeArts & CultureAlbum review: Run the Jewels 3 is a real jewel in the crown of hip-hop

Album review: Run the Jewels 3 is a real jewel in the crown of hip-hop

Run the Jewels 3

Run the Jewels

(Mass Appeal)

Four-and-a-half stars

The dismembered fists – one clinched, the other with fingers pointed like a gun – return for a third time on the cover of Run the Jewels 3, completing a trilogy that started in 2013.

The fists are no longer bandaged. The right one typically holds a gold chain, but that is gone, too. This time, the hands themselves are gold. Trophies, perhaps. A defiant signal of victory. If that is indeed the intention with the cover art of Run the Jewels 3, it is earned. The ambitious, multilayered third record from the supergroup pairing – Atlanta standard-bearer Killer Mike and longtime New York producer/MC El-P – is a third straight triumph.

El-P’s crystallised beats are as crisp and original as ever. Mike’s verses are typically fierce and pointed, seemingly trying to one-up his counterpart at every turn (though El-P is no slouch on the mic himself).

The guestlist is a dream team of acclaimed indie artists: rapper Danny Brown, jazzman Kamasi Washington, Tunde Adeblmpe from esoteric rockers TV on the Radio, and a heroic return appearance from Zack de la Rocha on the fittingly angry closer A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters – they are well-placed and pitch-perfect.

That the duo self-released the record for free on Christmas morning was a nice surprise. That the record is front-to-end fantastic is probably the least surprising development.

You get the sense the two could rap together forever and never go stale. Listen as they go back and forth on Legend Has It, trading boasts – “we the new PB&J/we dropped a new classic today”, spits Mike, later topped by El-P’s Tinder-era brag that he’s the “living swipe-right” – and confidently asserting their place at the top of the hip-hop’s currently crowded pantheon.

This collection reaches the same dizzying heights as 1 and 2, a lofty standard they have both set and reached.

In fact, with three hip-hop classics in three tries, it is fair to consider where Run the Jewels stand in the all-time ranks among hip-hop duos.

It is a privilege to hear the two go to work, and each listen of Run the Jewels 3 is rewarded with more discoveries of their hyper-literate snark, wit and righteous and thoughtful indignation.

Enjoy them now, as they have suggested they were always aiming for a trilogy of releases. As El-P raps on the heart-wrenching Thursday in the Danger Room: “you better get the good times while they last”.

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