In An EDM World, We Could Do Worse Than Skrillex

Monday at Township Auditorium
By Jordan Lawrence
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
skrillex
Skrillex plays the Township on Monday. | photo by Jason Nocito
We music critics aren’t a social bunch. It’s a life of staring at screens, listening intently through headphones and, occasionally, heading out to clubs and concert halls to, once again, listen intently. It’s the antithesis of the culture surrounding DJs like Skrillex, where the drugs are passed out to get you hyped on the dance floor, not introspective on your couch; where the music, while important, is a means to a very social end, namely dancing your figurative ass off with friends and strangers. The mere thought of all this is enough to have many music critics — this one included — breaking out in anxious sweats.

Skrillex — aka Sonny John Moore, the California punk singer who surprisingly became a superstar DJ — is the popular face of this EDM craze. He’s sold more than 10 million records worldwide, played massive events like Bonnaroo and Coachella, and snagged six Grammy awards, all since his first EP landed in 2009.

That EDM acronym stands for “electronic dance music.” It’s a catch-all term for music that draws on diverse styles like dubstep, trap, house and techno — largely European trends that most Americans had no idea about until a few years ago. But, bolstered by crossover successes like Skrillex, the rave culture from across the pond filtered into our own club culture. Critics sniping at this realm of glowsticks and gyrations, particularly when it came to Skrillex, dubbed this cultural wave “Brostep,” keying on the influx of fratty college dudes who see such parties as their new best chance to get laid.

What: Skrillex
Where: Township Auditorium, 1703 Taylor St.
When: Monday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
With: GTA, Vindata, Branchez
Price: $46
More Info: 576-2350, thetownship.org
But this notion is largely unfair. Yes, Skrillex and others got famous by converting fans who couldn’t tell you the difference between dubstep and dub, but the energy of Moore’s music is impressive, nonetheless. In fact, maybe that’s why many critics can’t quite get their head around it. Consider “Bangarang,” the single from his 2011 EP of the same name. Triggered by a kinetic electric guitar sample, it slashes and twists, with buzzing bass lines crunching so viscerally that they almost feel like physical contact. It’s the sweaty elation of a rave funneled into a three-minute blitz. It makes me very uncomfortable.

In a recent, exhaustive interview with the online music hub Complex, Skrillex expressed disdain for “tastemakers.” He complained that they specialize in “press that is usually highbrow and talks s#!t or posts about things that are going to be controversial — they know how to get hits.”

They’re also unwilling to admit when they’re confronted with something they don’t understand. There are serious negatives to EDM culture — irresponsible drug use, rampant disrespect of women — but hip-hop and rock aren’t immune to these issues, either.

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And while many stars in this current swell — looking at you, Bassnectar — rely on generic, repetitive hooks and knee-jerk bass assaults, Skrillex is at least adventurous. Indeed, the weaknesses of Recess, Moore’s 2014 LP debut, stem largely from trying too much: “Ragga Bomb”’s reggae-step foray is trite but also wholly sincere, and the grand pop melodies that diffuse the booming bass of the title track are infectious despite their staid constructions. Other excursions are profoundly successful: “Coast is Clear,” tracked with Chance the Rapper and his backing band, injects grinding trap energy into the space-funk trill of Outkast, a thrilling juxtaposition.

Skrillex doesn’t do a lot of press, avoiding most interviews, which in his case is probably wise. His is a world that most music journalists have neither the energy nor the interest to access. Perhaps the general critical disdain for Moore is merely fear for that which we don’t understand. Because, as mainstream EDM figureheads go, we could do a lot worse.

Columbia SC Club Calendar: Oct 22-29

Live Music, Karaoke, Trivia, Dance, DJs and More
By Free Times
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
death on two wheels
Wednesday 22
live music

Conundrum Music Hall: Jealousy Mountain Duo, Don Vito, Fratmouth, Occupants
Delaney’s: Jason Marcum
Mainstreet Cafe: Open Mic w/ Nikki Lee & Herbie Jeffcoat
new brookland tavern: Endeavor, Conveyer, The Death in Me, In Hope We Return, Big Steve
Tin Roof: Matt Stilwell
Utopia: D.B. Bryant & Vince McKinley

karaoke

555 Lounge: T & J’s Karaoke
Art Bar: Linda’s Carraoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
CR Station House: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

British Bulldog Pub: Pub Trivia
Drip (Five points): Poetry Reading
Jillian’s: Trivia
Locals: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom: Trivia
QUAKER STEAK: Bike Night
Red Door Tavern: Dave Stone and Caleb Synan (comedy)
Rockaway Athletic Club: Trivia w/ Dr. Sams
Wet WILLIE’S: Quizon Trivia
Wild Hare (Vista): QuizTheMasses Trivia

Thursday 23
live music

British Bulldog Pub: The No Name Bluegrass Band
Delaney’s: J.J. Smith
Hemingway’s: Whiskey Run Duo
Music Farm: Pop Evil, New Medicine, Letters From the Fire, Bad Seed Rising
new brookland tavern: Stray From the Path, Counterparts, Expire, My Ticket Home, Invoking the Abstract
Pearlz Upstairz: Reggie Sullivan
Rooftop Rhythms: The Sensational Epics
Tin Roof: Kris Hitchcock
Township Auditorium: Prettier Than Matt, Tyler Boone
Utopia: Open Mic Night w/ Marv Ward

karaoke

Applebee’s (Oneil Ct.): Karaoke w/ DJ Regina
Bentley’s Beach House: Karaoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
Kelly’s: Karaoke w/ DJ Snow
ale House lounge: Linda’s Carraoke
Ozzie’s Country Island: Showtime Karaoke
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke with Bobby Whittle
South Lake Saloon: S.I.N. and Karaoke with D.J. Shelly O
Tsubaki: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Art Bar: Foundation Danse Macabre
Carolina Ale House (Vista): Trivia w/ Ryan
Carolina Wings (Cayce): Team Trivia
Carolina Wings (Lexington): Quizon Trivia
Corner Pocket: Shag Night
Foxfield BAr & Grill: Drunk Bingo
JILLIAN’S: Shaggin’ in the Shack
Main street Cafe: DJ
PT’s 1109: Thirsty Thursday Drag Show
TLC Sports Bar & Grill: Trivia
Uncle Fester’s: Quizon Trivia
The Wild Hare (Irmo): Quiz the Masses Trivia
The Woody: DJ Chadly D

Friday 24
live music

Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Open Bluegrass Jam
British Bulldog Pub: Rob Franco & Friends
Conundrum Music Hall: Gringo Star, Keath Mead, Adam Corbett Band
Delaney’s: J.J. Smith
Hemingway’s: Taste Like Chicken
Mainstreet Cafe: Jesse Moore
Music Farm: “Red Bull Sound Select” featuring Run the Jewels, Baby Baby, The Outfit, TX
new brookland tavern: Murder By Death, That Hideous Strength
Pearlz Upstairz: Robert Gardiner Jazz Quartet
tin roof: Joe the Show
T’s Country Beer Bar: Full Throttle
Utopia: Infinite
Venue on Broad: Mystic Vibrations
wild wing cafe (Irmo): The Steppin Stones
wild wing cafe (The Village): Cover Story
wild wing cafe (The Vista): BPL

karaoke

Blue Fin: Karaoke
Friends Club: Linda’s Carraoke
Quaker Steak & Lube: Karaoke
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke with Bobby Whittle
Tsubaki: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Art Bar: DJ Arambulance
Kelly’s: DJ Guy
Legion Post 215: Disco Night
Liberty Tap Room: DJ
Red Door Tavern: Soda City Stand Up Tour Kick Off
TLC Sports Bar & Grill: DJ DDL
Uncle Fester’s: DJ Snow
The Woody: DJ

Saturday 25
live music

Art Bar: Pee Wee’s Gas Can, New York Disco Villians, 10 Car Pile-Up, The Haves, Dreiberg
Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Classic Country Music & Dancing
Blazing Copper: Rap Battle
Colonial Life Arena: Legends of Hip-Hop
new brookland tavern: Say Brother, Death on Two Wheels, Radiobirds, DYEL
Pearlz Upstairz: Megan Farish
River Rat: Red Honey
skyline club: Josh Hilley & Str8 Shot
Speakeasy: Robert Gardiner Jazz Quartet
Tin Roof: Kris Hitchcock
Utopia: The Whatever Band w/ Linda Ewing
UU Coffeehouse: Free Planet Radio
wild wing cafe (The Village): Tony Williams Band
wild wing cafe (The Vista): The Austin Mowery Band
karaoke Chevy’s: Nightowl Karaoke w/ Chris 2nd
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
Shooter’s Grill & Pub: Karaoke
Tipsy Toad Tavern: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
Wet Willie’s: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Blue: DJ Riggles
Liberty Tap Room: DJ
Lucky 13: DJ Red, DJ Chadly D
Main Street Cafe: DJ
Publick House: Quizon Trivia
Scooner’s: DJ3
Uncle Fester’s: DJ Snow
Wild Wing Café (Irmo): DJ Tom Wise
The Woody: DJ

Sunday 26
live music

All Star Pizza: Ray Piazzola
British Bulldog Pub: WXRY Unsigned w/ Prettier Than Matt
new brookland tavern: Dads, Tiny Moving Parts, Nai Harvest, Big Awesome

karaoke

PT’s 1109: Karaoke w/ DJ Snow
Tsubaki: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Kelly’s: Team Trivia
The Pizza Joint: Quizon Trivia
SOCIAL: 3LAU
Speakeasy: Mo’ Betta Soul Sundays w/ DJ Preach Jacobs

Monday 27
live music

Kelly’s: Open Mic
new brookland tavern: The Moms, Everything Ever, Survey Says

karaoke

Hemingway’s: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Buckaroos Grill & Bar: DJ Ray Ray
Publick House: Quizon Trivia
Red Door Tavern: Comedy Open Mic
Salty Nut Cafe: Trivia
SOCIAL: POST SKRILL
Township Auditorium: Skrillex

Tuesday 28
live music

All Star Pizza: Open Mic w/ Ray Piazzola
Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor: Songwriters Open Mic
Conundrum Music Hall: Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra, The Ruby Brunettes, Shy Lions
Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles: Katera
Lucky’s: Open Mic
new brookland tavern: Motopony, The Family Crest
South Lake Saloon: Open Mic w/ AL-G

karaoke

CJ’s: Karaoke w/ DJ Slinky
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke
Uncle Fester’s: Linda’s Carraoke
Wet Willie’s: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

Carolina Wings (Red BAnk): Quizon Trivia
Cover 3: Sex Trivia
Flying Saucer: Trivia Bowl
Liberty tap room: DJ
MainStreet cafe: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom (Lexington): Quizon Trivia
Quaker Steak & Lube: Team Trivia3
STATE STReet PUB: Trivia
Wings & Ale (Columbia):Trivia
Yesterdays: Trivia

Wednesday 29
live music

Conundrum Music Hall: Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Aunt’s Analog, Baggage KLAIM, Roomdance, Plank Ewing
Delaney’s: Josh McCaa
new brookland tavern: The Royal Noise, One Night Stand
Utopia: The Juniors

karaoke

555 Lounge: T & J’s Karaoke
Art Bar: Linda’s Carraoke
Corner Pocket: Karaoke
CR Station House: Karaoke
Tsubaki: Karaoke

dance, djs & misc.

British Bulldog Pub: Pub Trivia
Drip (Five points): Poetry Reading
Jillian’s: Trivia
Music Farm: Heroes x Villains
Locals: Trivia
Mellow Mushroom: Trivia
QUAKER STEAK: Bike Night
Tin Roof: EDM w/ Bois Obscur

Mike “Moose” Martin at Latitude 22

By Christian Barker
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
latitude 22 columbia sc
Photo by Christian Barker
Name: Mike “Moose” Martin
Setting: Latitude 22 (636 Harden St.)

I see you all kept the Sharky’s tropical theme going, but what has changed?

A lot has changed actually. Sharky’s had issues with smell, and it was dirty. We have totally renovated this bar and given it a fresher feel. We have wanted to make this side of Five Points feel a bit more upscale.

I saw the sign for Sharky’s was still up. Do they still own the upstairs?

No, Pinch actually bought the upstairs. They haven’t opened it yet, but I hear they are adding a new kitchen.

Does Latitude 22 have any tropical drinks to go along with the theme?

Yes, we have some amazing frozen drinks we just added and some awesome fishbowls that have anything from Nerds to Swedish fish.

Do you all have any weekly events?

We run several weekly specials that we put on our sign outside. Monday and Wednesday we have free pool. There are a few events coming up, but you will just have to follow us.

How long have you worked in Five Points?

About a year and a half now. I was the mechanical bull operator for Moosehead, and the owner just opened Latitude 22 so I have started working over here.

I am sure you get to see some wild stuff working in Five Points. What is your favorite work story?

I’d have to say it was the time Connor Shaw came into Moosehead. He wasn’t drinking but came to hang out with some friends. He was riding the mechanical bull and wanting me to turn up the speed. So I did, and he was bucked off backwards and flew into the wall. I was new to the area, and I didn’t know who he was and how important he was to USC and that he was one of those people that aren’t allowed to get hurt.

He was fine, but Spurrier, along with a lot of USC students, would have been pissed.

So how does someone become a mechanical bull operator?

I actually rode bulls in rodeos when I lived in North Carolina.

Concerts in Columbia: Oct 22-29

Endeavor; Prettier Than Matt; Gringo Star; Death on Two Wheels; Free Planet Radio; Kill, Baby…Kill!; Legends of Hip-Hop; New York Disco Villians; Dads; Aviator; Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra; Breakdancing Ronald Reagan
By Free Times
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
gringo star
Atlanta's Gringo Star plays Conundrum on Friday.
WEDNESDAY 22
Endeavor, Conveyer — Kindred spirit metal bands — Virginia’s Endeavor and Wisconsin’s Conveyer — both delve into melodic, damn-near-anthemic post-hardcore that tempers crusty thrashing with occasional moments of prettiness and adrenaline-fueled crescendos. — Kyle Petersen

New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $5; 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

THURSDAY 23
Prettier Than Matt — Columbia’s Prettier Than Matt plays a smart game. Taking the rustic flavor from latter-day Southern success stories like Shovels & Rope, the duo applies it to the kind of plucky melodies that carried Hootie & the Blowfish to fleeting superstardom. More impressive, Jeff Pitts and Jessica Skinner imbue this shrewd formula with genuine joy, much of it coming from her radiant voice. Tyler Boone opens this outdoor show on the Township’s back loading dock. — Jordan Lawrence

Township Auditorium: 5:30 p.m; free, 576-2350, thetownship.org

FRIDAY 24
Gringo Star — While many delineate their Beatles worship, championing either the band’s more ragged early years or the immaculate pop-rock experimentation that followed, Atlanta’s Gringo Star sees no reason to bifurcate its Fab Four devotion. Like Foxygen, the group takes a messy-yet-infectious gallop through girl-group pop, proto-punk and psychedelic rock, acting as if they were one and the same. Keath Mead and the Adam Corbett Band open. — Kyle Petersen

Conundrum Music Hall: 9 p.m., $8; 250-1295; conundrum.us

Murder By Death — Although named after a 1976 Robert Moore comedy, Murder By Death takes an ultra-serious approach to its sprawling indie rock — intricate as a whispered threat and loud and menacing as its creators’ delivery. But there’s a literary bent to these tales of horror and woe. — Michael Spawn

New Brookland Tavern, 10/24: 8:30 p.m., $17 ($15 advance); 791-4413,newbrooklandtavern.com

PICK ‘EM by Michael Spawn
THURSDAY 23 — Pop Evil

Pop Evil would be genius if it just for one second let slip that it was kidding. But it’s no joke. The members wear a lot of leather and tattoos, long hair a-swinging, and include song lyrics espousing their collective fearlessness. The music itself is harmless enough, with songs that shoot for hard-rock grandiosity — and occasionally succeed. But Pop Evil mostly just comes across as a bland cross-breeding of White Zombie and Nickelback.

Music Farm: 8 p.m., $18 ($15 advance); 577-6989, musicfarm.com

VS

THURSDAY 23 — Stray From the Path, Counterparts

Stray From the Path has a keener sense of groove than one might expect. The group’s songs are aggressive without any ridiculous macho posturing and give an idea of what Every Time I Die might sound like if it had a greater appreciation for hip-hop — but, thankfully, not enough to produce full-on rap-rock. Canada’s Counterparts run a similar hardcore line.

New Brookland Tavern: 6:30 p.m., $15 ($13 advance); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com


SATURDAY 25
Death on Two Wheels, Say Brother — Athens’ Death on Two Wheels is aptly named. The group’s grungy sound motors through blues-tinged romps full of grime and slime that mix alt-rock bombast with classic rock structures. But the band also has an all-American, Heartland feel, just wrapped up in the kind of bad tattoos and crusty motorcycle leather that you can’t take home to mama. Hard-choogling local favorite Say Brother provides support. Radio Birds and DYEL open. — Kyle Petersen

New Brookland Tavern: 8 p.m., $8 ($5 in advance); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

Free Planet Radio — There’s a free-jazz element to the music of Asheville instrumental combo Free Planet Radio that belies the intricate compositional foundation that must undergird their fluid and adventurous world music. Makes sense: To play this loose you have to have serious skills. The trio incorporates recognizable jazz motifs and plenty of Turkish and Middle Eastern sounds on exotic instrumentation. — Kevin Oliver

UU Coffeehouse: 8 p.m., $15 ($3 Students); 200-2824, uucoffeehouse.org

Kill, Baby…Kill! — One of the great things about Pulp Fiction is the way it paired a killer soundtrack with dark themes and even darker humor, giving genres like surf rock an edgier and grittier presence in the contemporary music world. It’s something Alabama’s Kill, Baby…Kill! takes to heart. The group plays a most menacing brand of surf music, full of hardcore fervor and horror movie pizzazz. Local indie rockers Release the Dog and the surf-punking Thee Knee Jerks also play. Mario McClean opens. — Kyle Petersen

Tapp’s Arts Center: 7:30 p.m., $5; 988-0013, tappsartscenter.com

rakim
Rakim plays the Colonial Life Arena on Saturday.

Legends of Hip-Hop — This jam-packed show would have been a great addition to last week’s USC’s homecoming events, but who can complain with a lineup like this, filled with nothing but hip-hop pioneers? There’s the aptly nicknamed “God Emcee,” Rakim; British slick-talkers, Dana Dane and Slick Rick; “Smooth Operator” Big Daddy Kane; and the man who laid the groundwork for how to properly rock a radio show or party on the ones and twos, Kool DJ Red Alert. The rest of this bill — also featuring New York comedian Zach Johnson— is a welcome testament to rap’s vibrant legacy. — Eric Tullis

Colonial Life Arena: 3 p.m., $47–$87; 576-9200, coloniallifearena.com

New York Disco Villains, 10 Car Pile-Up — The Columbia-based New York Disco Villains are more like pop-rock anti-heroes than straight-up evildoers. Their left-of-center carnival rock wallows joyously in harmless macabre kitsch. 10 Car Pile-Up, on the other hand, is versatile without a clear identity. It’s pretty good at too many alt-rock sub-genres while excelling at none. — Michael Spawn

Art Bar: 7 p.m., $5; 929-1098, artbarsc.com

SUNDAY 26
Dads — The songs on Dads’ new LP I’ll be the Tornado reflect a more mature version of the Michigan-via-New Jersey emo duo. They no longer deliberately avoid pop structures, as they did when they were younger. Sure, they still drop into extended instrumental meditations or take jarring U-turns when it makes sense, but they also just let the songs be songs. With Tiny Moving Parts, Nai Harvest, Big Awesome. — Corbie Hill

New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $10; 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

TUESDAY 28
Aviator, fk mt. — Aviator and fk mt. — the former headlining this intriguing Tuesday bill, the latter lending local support — both growl and brood, synergizing indie rock and grimy punk, envisioning a world where those two worlds never split. Aviator’s sound is cleaner, strewn with chiming solos that balance gritty riffs and burly vocals. fk mt. are more unfiltered, with torrents of slacker fuzz that corrode rhythms that are otherwise upbeat. With Rescuer, Young and Heartless, Ex-Breathers, Cepheus. — Jordan Lawrence

Foxfield Bar & Grill: 8 p.m., $7; 728-0420, facebook.com/foxfieldbar

Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra — There’s a breezy ease to this DIY West Coast outfit, which decorates its acoustic folk-pop with minimal, ramshackle accoutrements. The main appeal, though, is the casual sing-along insights of singer-songwriter Dustin Hayes, whose world-weary lyricism explores themes of apathy, exhaustion and the uncertainty of the post-grad 20-something with wit and apparent sincerity, even if he doesn’t have much in the way of grand proclamations. The Ruby Brunettes and Shy Lion open. — Kyle Petersen

Conundrum Music Hall: 8 p.m., $5; 250-1295; conundrum.us

WEDNESDAY 29
Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Aunt’s Analog — Johnny Cash is coming to town! Only this time, he’s a noise artist from Austin, and he’s performing as Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. The music is as absurd as the name, with this other Cash summoning speaker-destroying feedback. While Breakdancing Ronald Reagan’s output is heavy and thick, tourmate Aunt’s Analog brings tormented, anxious noise. Plank Ewing opens. — Corbie Hill

Conundrum Music Hall: 8:30 p.m., $5; (803) 250-1295; conundrum.us

The Royal Noise — This Philadelphia-based funk fusion group is on tour to promote its third album in as many years. The tight ensemble — composed of saxophone, keys, bass, drums and guitar — boasts a dazzling repertoire that spans various strains of jazz, funk and rock and showcases the players’ impressive chops. — Jude Fox

New Brookland Tavern: 8 p.m., $5 ($8 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com

Killer Mike and El-P Return as Run the Jewels with Even More Intensity

Friday at Music Farm
By Patrick Wall
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
run the jewels
Run the Jewels play Music Farm on Friday.
When Killer Mike and El-P announced RTJ2, the sequel to their eponymous 2013 debut as Run the Jewels, in late August, they detailed a number of farcical — and preposterously priced — pre-order packages. One of which was the “Meow the Jewels Package,” wherein the duo would “re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds.”

The Internet being the Internet, a fan started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Meow the Jewels package, despite warnings that “run the jewels reserves the right to take your money and not fulfill any of its obligations as outlined in any package priced at 35k or more.” In September, El-P tweeted that he’d make the record if it got funded; the Kickstarter campaign reached its goal last week. He also noted that proceeds of the albums would go to charity — specifically toward aiding the families of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the black Americans killed this summer by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, respectively.

“Now we get to give the money to a worthy cause, and now we get to make a wild, weird-ass record,” says Killer Mike. “We get to do something, really something to impact the world in a really good way.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” El-P adds. “And if we can’t find a way to do that directly, then we’ll do it with someone, some organization that benefits, you know, victims of police brutality. That’s something me and Mike both feel strongly about.”

What: “Red Bull Sound Select” featuring Run the Jewels
Where: Music Farm, 1022 Senate St.
When: Friday, Oct. 24, 9 p.m.
With: Baby Baby, The Outfit, TX
Price: Free with RSVP; $10 at the door
More Info: musicfarm.com/venues/music-farm-columbia
In a strange way, the “Meow the Jewels” remix project is an apt metaphor for the overarching oeuvre of Run the Jewels: a brilliant bit of gallows humor, a fiddle to play while the world burns. Killer Mike and El-P didn’t aim to release the darker and meaner RTJ2 during one of the most turbulent social and political periods in recent American history. “F#!k the law / They can eat my dick / That’s word to Pimp,” El-P raps on the first few bars of “Darling Don’t Cry,” but while the lines — and the rest of the politically charged Molotov cocktails Mike and El throw on RTJ2 — seem a direct reaction to the firestorms in Ferguson and beyond, they weren’t written in response, Mike says. By the time he was on CNN talking about police brutality in Ferguson, RTJ2 was already done.

“I think me and Mike have always explored that energy,” says El-P. “The fact that it sort of has become more relevant to more people on a national scale who maybe weren’t keyed in or tuned in to that type of thing just is a coincidence to some degree. We always weave that stuff in and out of our music.”

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If the released cuts are any indication, RTJ2’s lyricism surpasses its predecessor’s chain-snatching antagonism, Mike and El taking aim at any and all authority figures; El-P’s beats equally up the aggression, with scrambled sample loops, cracking snares and heavily distorted bass lines. Even when dropping charged political urgency — as on “Close Your Eyes (and Count to F#!k),” where Mike references The Anarchist’s Cookbook and incites prison riots — for agenda-free battle rap, Mike and El’s razor-sharp rhymes run meaner and cut deeper. “Last album voodoo / Proved that we was f#!king brutal,” Mike raps on “Blockbuster Night, Part 1”, and it’s far from an idle boast.

“We’re not making some huge leap,” El-P says. “So this Run the Jewels record, I think it’s still a Run the Jewels record, but there’s a little bit more of that, you know, f#!k-the-system vibe than there was on the first one. And, you know, that was something that we just naturally felt, you know?”

Or, as Mike spits on “Blockbuster Night, Part 1”: “This Run the Jewels is murder, mayhem, melodic music.” Brace yourself.

Let us know what you think: Email music@free-times.com.

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