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Killer Mike

LIVE REVIEW: Run the Jewels, Pumpehuset, 19.12.2014

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Photo by Tom Spray

Killer Mike and El-P’s three year bromance culminated in 2014 with the release of Run the Jewels 2, widely regarded as the best hip-hop album of the year. The look of pride and gratitude on El-P’s face is evident even at the back of the packed room at Pumpehuset. Half-serious, half-clowning around, there is a rare chemistry between the two men, bouncing onto the stage in well-deserved celebration to the sound of “We are the Champions”.

As a reflection of the year, RTJ2 is not a subtle album but a bold one, dealing with the contradictions of being at the top just as the fraught tensions inherent in the American justice system flared up again. Though the mood of these tracks is intense, what sets them apart is the lyrical approach taken by Killer Mike and El-P. For every classic boast (“I fuck and rap/  I tote the strap, I smoke the kush, I beat the puss”) there is a moment of brutal tenderness (“And I pray today ain’t the day you drag me away/ Right in front of my beautiful son”).

These contradictions might not be as evident in the live show, but the level of energy more than makes up for it. The audience know every hook, making the signature fist and gun sign whenever they aren’t busy out-jumping each other. There is a relationship between artist and audience that is unseen in other genres, a commitment, in the words of Killer Mike, to “burn this motherfucker down.”

Though most of the set is based around the latest album, there are some choice selections from their 2013 effort, including the seasonally-appropriate “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”. And after the party it’s time to hip RapGenius.

LIVE REVIEW: EL-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 20.11.2013

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The bass makes my chest bounce, it makes my nostrils vibrate, it shakes my legs but what is most important: It makes me bob my head. From the moment that El-P and Killer Mike aka Run The Jewels walk on stage they seem determined make the winter cold crowd move. That is what they do and they do it loud!

Last time (my first) I saw El-P was in Loppen, Copenhagen on his Cancer 4 Cure tour. I have been following him since the days of Fantastic Damage, so we where looking at a pile of expectations that had been build up over a decade, but at the end of the night it was a happy boy that zig-zagged his way home  from Loppen. It is about a year ago now. This time El-P and Killer Mike was set to play Store Vega, but the concert was rescheduled to Lille Vega,  yet there was still room – though not a lot. Still someone out there must have been asleep, because Run The Jewels certainly deserve a full house.

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

The show was intense – just like the album. El-P and Killer Mike are both skilled rappers with many years of experience; when it comes to rapping they are like atomic clocks. On time. In the second half of the show the duo opened up for their respective back catalogs with songs like “Drones over Brooklyn” (from El-P´s album Cancer 4 Cure), “Big Beast” (from Killer Mike’s 2012 album ‘R.A.P. Music), “The Full Retard” (also Cancer 4 Cure) and a personal favorite of mine, a vocal only version of the late nineties Company Flow song called “Patriotism” that made me recall the Allen Ginsberg poem “America”.

Not only did they give a highly energetic live performance, they gave the audience a few good jokes and good vibes as well. The duo really seemed to be enjoying themselves. El-P said it himself towards the end: “I must have the greatest job in the world because each night I get to see this guy [Killer Mike] dance”.

WATCH THE FULL LIVE GALLERY BY TOM SPRAY HERE

EL-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 20.11.2013

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Photos by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

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