EL-P and Killer Mike Close Run the Jewels Tour at Webster HallAugust 15th, 2013
EL-P and Killer Mike – Webster Hall – August 14, 2013
Any Best Albums of 2012 list that didn’t include Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music or EL-P’s Cancer 4 Cure isn’t to be taken seriously. There’s simply no denying the greatness of either album, in a large part due to the duo collaborating on them. To follow that up, this year Killer Mike and EL-P dropped a totally free self-titled album as Run the Jewels, or as Killer Mike called it, “the best motherfuckin’ tag team in the world.” And it’s a safe bet that this album, too, will be dubbed one of the year’s best, and the five-week tour promoting it that ended last night at Webster Hall couldn’t help but feel like a victory lap.
Killer Mike’s set came first, steamrolling the place with a “Big Beast.” A rap concert is his church and Killer Mike was the preacher. He’s clear about what his expectations are for rap—a message he made obvious in “R.A.P. Music,” which felt like the night’s mission statement. Earlier in his set, he asked of other rappers, “Why the fuck won’t you rap about something other than your goddamned selves?” before doing the politically charged “Reagan,” which Mike rapped almost entirely a cappella. He added some extra punch to the song, turning the choruses into crowd chants of “Fuck Ronald Reagan,” even adding some NYC flavor by tossing out as a final line: “Fuck stop and frisk, I hope Bloomberg heard what I said.” To close, Killer Mike took a few steps into the audience, the rap-concert equivalent of preaching from the pews, delivering the authoritative lines of “God in the Building” directly to crowd members.
For all their combined greatness, Killer Mike and EL-P have some big differences stylistically, something made clear at the start of EL-P’s own set. Beginning with “Drones over Brooklyn,” he delivered every word with such spastic energy it felt like the verses were the result of an exorcism, clutching the microphone stand like it was the only thing keeping him grounded. The night was a homecoming of sorts for the Brooklyn-based rapper, with his mom in attendance for the occasion. EL-P’s set list ran the span of his entire career and even included a brief cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” complete with a keytar solo. He closed things with “Stay Down” and then left the stage briefly before returning with Killer Mike as the PA blasted “Bad to the Bone.”
Run the Jewels time! The final set of the night included just about every song off Run the Jewels, with EL-P and Killer Mike trading verses and working the crowd in their little moments of downtime. Donning 36-inch chains, both rappers radiated a sense of reassured confidence other rappers do their best to fake. “Tougher, Colder, Killer” off Cancer 4 Cure brought out Despot for his guest verse, and as the stage slowly filled with the duo’s crew, the show was over in the blink of an eye. The night ended with one giant group hug, a proclamation from EL-P that this was “the most amazing tour I’ve had in my life” and an outpouring of appreciation from the crowd. —Dan Rickershauser