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Run The Jewels Concert Review

Run The Jewels
October 22nd, 2015
The Midland - Kansas City, MO

Fans were packed in and ready to go when Cuz Lightyear took the stage Friday night. The Little Rock, Arkansas emcee emerged donning an all-over studded ski mask. His first two songs were exciting, Cuz channeled his southern roots for some late night riding tunes. His third song was a bit more inspirational and upbeat in nature, a disappointment for me, a fan of cool, dark shit, but his next and final two were a return to that. The young rapper had a lot of fun having the crowd yell, "What up, Cuz!," back to him and took a picture with everyone at the end. You don't always hear a lot of noise out of Arkansas, so it was nice seeing Cuz peak his head in for those 15 minutes.

Cuz Lightyear
Fashawn is a rapper who speaks from experience. The 27 year-old rapper had a rough childhood growing up in Fresno, California and his music does a good job of reflecting that. Through heaps of cold rhymes and tough boom-bap beats, Fashawn narrates the story of his life and those around him and amplifies them for the world to hear. His production and lyrical content sound much like that of old school New York rappers, which might be why his label's owner Nas took a liking to him. Fashawn produced an entertaining set that included tracks off his long awaited sophomore album The Ecology and a spectacular flaunting of skill by DJ Fresh, who carried a large ghetto blaster-shaped box which he used to drum and sample a song for Fashawn to rap to. Fashawn seems to be an artist who will always keep evolving and should always be worth watching.

The last opener of the evening was Boots. Boots is a singer/rapper/producer/do-it-all man, who while still relatively new to the scene, has some big accomplishments under his belt. He worked on a majority of the songs on Beyoncé's most recent album and has also worked with Run The Jewels and FKA Twigs on their material. His stage show involves his original songs being played by his band of two keyboardists and a drummer. After an enthusiastic introduction from El-P of Run The Jewels, the crowd was excited to see what was going to happen. However, Boots was an outlier last night and for good reason. His solo songs lack intensity, catchiness, and really, enjoyability. While the backing music was made in an interesting way and was well-done at times, Boots' rap parts were mumbly and his singing voice was weak and did not have much range. The end-result was a twenty-minute set of songs that sounded like Alt-J instrumentally and a rapper's unprepared hypeman vocally. The crowd was about as responsive as you could expect.

Fashawn and DJ Fresh
Finally (a bit ahead of schedule!) it was time for young, white, bearded men's favorite hip-hop duo, Run The Jewels. (I kid, there were lots of different people there, but that did seem to be the majority.) The duo is made up of Atlanta rap star and OutKast collaborator Killer Mike and Brooklyn, NY producer and emcee El-P. The two, who had worked together in the past, released their first album as Run The Jewels back in 2013, with a quick follow-up in 2014. With each release the internet explodes, sending music critics scattering and pick up the pieces. RTJ had never made the trek to Kansas City since their shot to stardom and they made it clear that they were late getting here. After entering the stage to Queen's "We Are The Champions" and praising Tech N9ne and Strange Music for working hard and staying independent, the show began.

Their first song was the title track to their 2013 debut (and their group), "Run The Jewels." The  action movie soundtrack-worthy track that featured Mike and El-P trading lightning-fast verses was the perfect way to get the set going. The duo's glitched-out and bass-thumping tracks are unique and could pretty much only be the product of interstate collaboration and highly skilled production, and boy was that a wonder to see take place. While the two are the same age, El-P was a bit lighter on his feet, hopping around in circles and quickly pacing the large Midland stage. Killer Mike (who's a bit of a bigger guy than El) went for more of a strut as he performed.

While their appearances aren't too similar, their goals however, are. When introducing their politician-smashing banger "Lie, Cheat, Steal," Mike dropped a subtle Bernie Sanders endorsement before they came to agree on their distrust of politicians. Their distrust of police was also made clear in the following song "Early," where Mike musters up a heart-wrenching verse about imagining himself getting arrested as his terrified family looked on. The pair noted that some of the proceeds from their newest release went to the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two recent victims of police brutality. Yeah, these guys are good. Juxtapose that type of moment to one where El-P warns anyone with a colostomy bag to watch out because "shit [was] about to get crazy" before another song, and you have a good example of how wild, fun, and memorable a Run The Jewels concert can be.

Killer Mike and El-P are both 40 years-old and have been in the business for years. For most people, this can start to play with the ego. Not Run The Jewels. They stopped to thank the crowd multiple times, make important statements, and joke around with those in attendance. Between that aspect and their high-energy performance, there isn't a reason I can think of not to go see them together.

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