The introductory salvo from rap superduo Run the Jewels is a fine example of a union that is so perfect one might wonder how the universe existed before it. The combination of Killer Mike's menacing Hulk power and El-P's sneering quips and lively production make Run the Jewels a thrilling experience. Everything about RTJ is hyperbolic excess -- both in attitude and sound -- stomping boot prints into the concrete and hurling innocent bystanders through brick walls. Although the pair didn't truly come into their own until the stellar 2014 sequel Run the Jewels 2, this 2013 debut hints at everything to come. Top-shelf production from El-P, Little Shalimar, and Wilder Zoby lends a fresh and exciting energy to each song, while El and Mike trade verses that are so dense with humor and bravado that new zingers are revealed with each successive listen. RTJ operate on a singular setting: imagine the silliest, most outrageous boast possible and then top it with a wink and a grin. From the opening blast of "Run the Jewels" to "36" Chain," they threaten with "Riverdance cleats on your face" and pulling guns "on your poodle or your fuckin' baby," taking typical hip-hop intimidation to ridiculous levels. Amongst the quotable gems, RTJ drop the occasional social commentary -- mostly regarding police oppression, poverty, and inner city struggles -- which balances the sophomoric overload with enough gravitas to justify the merit of the project (Mike's entire verse on "DDFH" ("Do dope, fuck hope") is a fine example of this insight). Some familiar friends also make appearances on the album: Mike's fellow ATLien Big Boi drops a standout verse on "Banana Clipper" while Prince Paul injects the filthy "Twin Hype Back" with a number of naughty nuggets as alter ego Chest Rockwell. While Run the Jewels is the appetizer to RTJ2's instant-classic main course, it stands as a no-holds-barred slap to the head for the rap game, calling out complacent contemporaries with each verbal shot fired. As Mike declares on highlight "Get It," "we are the new Avengers." With an aggressive strength that emboldens listeners with delusions of superhero grandeur, it's an apt claim from a dangerous duo that is more powerful than any comic book savior.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung