Live Review: Run The Jewels at Crystal Ballroom

Words: Shayna Chabrow

This past Monday, Run The Jewels performed an unruly, earth-shattering, sold out show at the Crystal Ballroom. Members Killer Mike and El-P came out with DJ Trackstar to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and took over the stage where a giant backdrop of their signature hand gestures hung behind them. They immediately hyped up the crowd before going into their opener “Talk To Me” from their recently released album Run the Jewels 3.

Run The Jewels have become known as one of the best modern hip-hop duos around, their albums consistently making “Best of” lists and receiving rave reviews with RTJ3 being no exception. The duo has always showed much appreciation for their fans and they did so recently by releasing RTJ3 on Christmas day, 3 weeks before its slated release date, and enabling fans to download it for free. With it came a personal message from them that read, “Whether you buy it, download it for free, steal it from your annoying cousin or hear it at a show, just know that we are eternally grateful for the love you’ve shown us. Thank you thank you thank you thank you.” The duo showed nothing but this thankfulness while on stage as they constantly thanked their fans for the support.

Killer Mike and El-P continued to perform in the order of their newest album until they plunged into the showstopping “Blockbuster Night, Part 1” from RTJ2. Their heart-warming smiles in between songs were contagious but their raw lyrics and flows were murderous. With their burly deliverance and Trackstar’s deafening beats, there was no way anyone would be standing still. 

At one point, El-P joked to the crowd that he would be leaving Run The Jewels after the show to pursue a career in spoken word poetry where he would use nothing but “incense and finger snaps” and travel to local coffee shops for performances. Though the duo writes heavy hitting songs, what makes them lovable outside of their music is how much they embrace humor whenever they can and that’s exactly what they did on stage, especially when talking about how high they both were throughout the show.

One of the best moments came when Run The Jewels went into the raunchy track “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” and brought out Gangsta Boo who embodied a contemporary empress as she strutted on stage with her fur coat, dark shades, and brass lyrics. It was the only point in the show when female crowd members could be heard yelling louder than the men and RTJ welcomed that moment by heightening it and yelling “Pussy is power!”

After, came “Lie, Cheat, Steal” which brought a major call and response from the crowd as each person felt the weight of the current terrors happening within the country. RTJ acknowledged the burdening multiple times, Killer Mike stating that “The devil is now running our country,” but did so to preach that now is the time when everyone should come together and help get one another through the trying time. Their hope was to distract the crowd from the horrors that be for just one night and to be in the moment with them. One member of the crowd threw an item with writing onto the stage and Killer Mike read its message of unity aloud. He then joked that “A white man just threw this so that’s how much we’ve come together.” After a 16 song setlist, RTJ closed with their hardest hitting track, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” and left the stage full of appreciation for the intensely passionate crowd and with their hand gestures held high.

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