Live Review: Run The Jewels prove to Melbourne why they are Kings of Hip Hop

Run the Jewels – the acclaimed project of US rappers El-P and Killer Mike – are currently in Australia for their first tour of our country in three years, and their first since the release of their third LP Run The Jewels 3.

The duo were quick to point out how much bigger the shows were since their last visit, when they toured with Joey Bada$$ for Falls Festival. This time they were headlining in their own right, again for Falls Festival, but this time playing venues as much as three times the size, with Flatbush Zombies in for the support.

There was an impromptu RTJ chant from the sold out crowd as they walked on stage; the pair (and audience) holding up their signature pistol and fist, with Killer Mike asking the crowd, “Who came to fuck shit up?!” As they launched into “Talk To Me”. They later provided some further context for the audience’s responsibilities during the show, saying “this is one of those hot and sweaty, lose your mind shows”, before running through two very important rules for an RTJ concert:

1. Look after each other
2. Keep your hands to yourselves (or we will punch you in the face repeatedly)

Naturally, this garnered a particularly loud response from the women in the audience – and the power of the words from Atlanta’s respected and revered rapper can’t be understated. Artists like Killer Mike and El-P telling their audience they’ll beat the shit out of them if they disrespect the women around them should be the opening pledge of every live music show in the world – hip hop or otherwise. And in spite of the pistols and fists and threats of violence against those who commit sexual assault, Run The Jewels deliver a show filled with a positive message. The songs are, at their heart, entertaining and often hilarious, with consistently stellar production. It’s music that doesn’t take itself too seriously with the occasional message that should be – such as “Thursday in the Danger Room” off their latest LP. The track was dedicated to “those no longer with us” as El-P and Killer Mike both talked about loss, depression and making sure we all told our friends we loved them.

Mike reflected on the passing of his mother in 2017 and the dark place he’s been, particularly over the last few months, ahead of main set closer “Down”. The heartfelt moment from a man who, on stage, appears as one of rap’s happiest performersc was another reminder why Run The Jewels are one of the most important artists hitting the stage today. They’re not afraid to speak their mind – and in Killer Mike’s case, take time out from a jam packed set to thank everyone on the crew who had been there for him in the past months, and particularly the day before, which would have been his Mum’s birthday, thanking them for helping him find happiness in a dark time.

Amongst the banter, 17 tracks were unleashed on the crowd, including almost the entirety of RTJ3, a few tracks from each of their earlier records (including personal favourite “Blockbuster Night Part. 1” off RTJ2) and the recent DJ Shadow collab, the brilliant “Nobody Speak”. While some songs were shortened slightly, the duo avoided the usual, predictable and overdone hip hop tropes, like the “greatest hits medley” which is a thorn in the side of any hip hop fan who wants to hear the artist’s best songs in their entirety.

There were no sirens from the DJ or gun shots at the end of every song. There was no “is my side louder!” game of audience participation. They had us clapping, cheering and chanting RTJ from start to finish, however – which added to the great vibe from the audience. Put simply: they delivered a great show, letting the strength of their music speak for itself.

“A Christmas Fucking Miracle” off their debut closed out the night, which proved a non-stop and highly enjoyable journey through the catalogue of one of the best hip hop acts in the world today, alongside the banter that makes them one of the most important. If more artists talked like RTJ talk, we would all be better for it. The fact that they’re also two of the world’s best MC’s, who make it all look so easy, becomes a bonus. If there is a hip hop throne, these two men deserve to sit comfortably atop it. This is one of the best hip hop shows – or live music shows in general – you’ll ever see.

Talk to Me
Legend Has It
Call Ticketron
Blockbuster Night Part 1
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
36″ Chain
Stay Gold
Don’t Get Captured
Panther Like a Panther
Nobody Speak (DJ Shadow)
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
Hey Kids (Bumaye)
Sea Legs
A Report to the Shareholders
Thursday in the Danger Room
A Christmas Fucking Miracle

Photo Credit: Nick Tucker (supplied by Live Nation)

The writer attended the show at Festival Hall in Melbourne on 4th January 2018 as a guest of Live Nation.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.