Album: Run the Jewels 2
Artist: Run the Jewels
About: 11 songs; 39 minutes
Here’s my fantasy blogger scenario – the Internet has been abuzz ever since Dan picked Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 2 for our album of the week. Our thousands of readers spent the week speculating about what on earth I would say about this album. Everyone would know that this album would not work for me, but they would be so curious to hear what I had to say about it. No doubt, it would be a revelation – a major thought piece in the pop culture stratosphere.
Yeah, no, that is not close to where we are. The number of people who actually read my blog can usually be counted on my digits each day. The potential that my opinion matters much at all about anything, let alone this record, is pretty miniscule. But I have probably thought about this album more than any album that we have listened to. Still, I am not sure that I can even organize those thoughts into a passable blog post. Here is my attempt.
If you happen to not already know this about me (or picked up on it from what I write), I am a 54 year-old white woman. Probably, 54 year old white women living in the Midwest should not be listening to rap because it scares us. There is horrible language, rampant violence, objectification and worse of women – and it breeds violence. Of course, even I know that this is a narrow minded, stereotype of a thriving genre of music. There is enough truth there, however, that makes me typically stay away.
When I hit play on Run the Jewels 2 this week, I wanted to turn it off after just a few tracks. I considered telling Dan that I couldn’t do it. What I heard was a lot of language I can’t tolerate that seemed either inciting or filthy. It made me feel bad just listening to it.
But I am a project finisher. I would see this assignment through! Before I could even turn it back on, I went to Sam to ask why he liked it. His response back to me was quick and really thoughtful. Coming at it as a 29 year-old white male living in New York City is an obviously different vantage point. But his answer went beyond the push back from someone who has on the equivalent of blinders when it comes to listening to music that he would tend to like anyway.
In the second of two lengthy emails, he wrote:
You say you don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish, and I can understand that, but I think more than anything else they’re trying to make the kind of music they love. It’s never going to be a commercial smash, but you (I) hear so much joy in this record. What they’re talking about may be offputting, but it’s not horrifying – when they do get dirty, they’re talking about having sex with a partner that they clearly idolize, and then they flip it over to a woman who objectifies them just as much. They fantasize about a prison riot of the victims of torture. They worry about police violence and the mindset of a kid joining the military.
They’re not Odd Future or Eminem rapping about rape and wanton destruction – they are making quick, hooky records with the aggression that is endemic in the hip-hop they love – and their targets are dumb rappers, organized religion, and the state.
And they sound great doing it.
And, he’s right. When I went back to the album, I did hear some of that joy. The music itself runs from rich layers of sound to some minimal beauty. And the off-putting pieces of it are counterbalanced by the funny lines like “I’m so high, you a hobbit,” and poignant entire songs like Early which tells the story of a dad being pulled over and arrested in front of his wife and kid. There is sorrow in this album. There is the frustration that Martin Luther King’s dream doesn’t apply when you are living on one of our countries many MLK roadways:
And I love Dr. King but violence might be necessary
Cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary
You might have to pull out our AK, send one to the cemetery
After reading Sam’s responses and doing some of my own research, I could listen and hear. But I am not here to tell you that I like this album. I cannot take off my ear blinders enough. Some of the words are really ugly, and I don’t want to hear them.
I appreciate that this album helped me to see a little bit beyond my irrational and unfounded fear that rap might be contributing to the downfall of society. That new view has been bolstered now have heard Mike Render and Jaime Meline give interviews that reveal them both to be personable, thoughtful, mid-30s dudes, and not dangerous society-wreckers, Killer Mike and El-P.
I’m not blowing up the Internet with my insight this week, but my thinking has been adjusted a little. That is as much of a thought piece that I have.
Next up: City Noir, composed by John Adams and performed by the St. Louis Symphony