Photo Credit: Angelo Gio Mateo
Photo Credit: Angelo Gio Mateo

The last time they had come to Toronto their trip was beset by problems, including a tour bus malfunction, their merch truck catching fire and the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson (who had shot Mike Brown in Ferguson) weighing heavily on their minds. This time, they would bring their full force to the Danforth Music Hall.

Killer Mike and El-P walked out to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as they did the previous time. Hanging from the ceiling were giant props of a pistol and fist, the group’s signature symbol. The crowd was chanting, “RTJ! RTJ! RTJ!” and holding up their hands with a pistol and fist. Run the Jewels was ready to show they were the top tag team for yet another year.

There’s an unmistakeable and unshakeable brotherhood between Killer Mike and El-P that translates into a high-energy show. They were not just performing, but truly having fun too. Their songs from RTJ3 (2017) felt like true posse cuts instead of just two trading verses. They complimented each other, intercut in each other’s verses and finished each other’s lines. They arguably have the best stage presence out of any hip-hop show that I have seen, including Kanye West.

They started off the show with three songs from RTJ3 and then played songs from RTJ2 (2014), getting the crowd excited. The crowd cheered and yelled, “We tell ‘em fuck ‘em, we never loved ‘em and salutations!” from “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1.” They brought out Gangsta Boo—who opened for the pair—for their song on RTJ2, “Love Again,” one of the raunchiest songs I’ve ever heard.

At one point El-P jokingly announced he was retiring from hip-hop altogether. Killer Mike joked that it was because he was going into porn, but El-P said he wanted to get into a solo slam poetry career. He began to start rapping the beginning of “Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix)” off of RTJ3. The crowd responded with cheers and snapping.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Run the Jewels show without some political moments. The crowd, at times, would yell “Fuck Trump!” as Killer Mike and El-P ranted about the state of affairs in their country. On the song, “Early” from RTJ2, the background lights were reminiscent of police car lights, apt for the song’s message. With the crowd raising their hands in the air, it reminded me of the protests in Ferguson and the chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

While RTJ2 was full of braggadocio and violence, the songs on RTJ3 that they played felt more demoralized and tired. Perhaps this is where they find themselves at this point. On one of the final songs of the night, “A Report to the Shareholders,” Killer Mike says, “But we know we all afraid, so we just simply cry and march again.” Run the Jewels was a fantastic show, unique among their peers in being full of energy but also full of emotion.

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