Live Review: Run the Jewels with Kung Foo Grip at Showbox 8/9/2014

all photos by Brittany Brassell

“Put up your fists and your guns one time right now”, Killer Mike yelled over the Showbox crowd. Across the room, hands went up mimicking the cover art from the self-titled debut from Run The Jewels. Mike nodded in stoic approval. “This is hands down the best tag team the world’s got going right now”, he followed. If you know anything about the Atlanta rapper’s work with Brooklyn rapper and producer El-P, there’s no arguing that. Sure, Mike’s work with Outkast is great, and El does a fine job throwing jabs on tracks by himself, but together, the two are an unstoppable force of energy. When Seattle saw them last at Capitol Hill Block Party 2013, they had a five man stage setup, a guest appearance from Despot, and even free weed! Here tonight at Showbox, the setup was as minimal as possible, and still, the two put on one of the best hip-hop shows to hit Seattle in months. With two veteran emcees and a whole lot of love, respect, and punchlines between them, Killer Mike and El-P brought their A-game tonight. But seriously, do they even have a B-game? I doubt it.

Young Seattle hip-hop group Kung Foo Grip opened up the night Saturday in light and fun fashion. Tonight marked the group’s first performance at the Showbox, and they were very thankful to Run The Jewels for the opportunity to play here tonight. The crowd had little excuse not to hop along with the insane energy going on onstage. With tracks about hating day jobs and growing up in the future, Kung Foo Grip made for great vocal warmup of shouting along with heated lyrics. At one point, they left the stage temporarily to change clothes and play a goofy dance track as a different band. Altogether, a fun way to open the evening.

Kung Foo Grip:

If given the opportunity to run the jewels, why wouldn’t you? That concept makes sense even before Killer Mike and El-P are involved. But throw in two of the most vicious and relentless (not to mention smiley) emcees there are on the scene, and you will run the jewels. Coming off a slew of festival appearances on the west coast (not to mention their rapturous set at Lollapalooza last week), Mike and El are halfway through a short string of headlining shows up north before heading home to put the finishing touches on releasing Run The Jewels 2.

From the get go, the two are all about the fans. Mike and El enter the stage to give high fives, fist pounds, and handshakes all across the front three rows. Burning through the first six tracks of the record to open, every line was yelled with direct eye contact with a different audience member. The two didn’t waste a single moment getting everyone involved. “You guys took this project we made for fun and turned it into something incredible”, El said halfway through the set. The love in the room was mutual, though – the scope of Run The Jewels’ success may be a bit of a surprise, but the bones behind it are no fluke. Mike and El lunge for the throat with every line and refuse to separate words and action with their music. That is a rare thing to find in a comparative culture obsessed with prowess. With where they are today, Mike and El are thankful and they aren’t afraid to say so. But when the thanks are done, they are on their Mortal Kombat and going for fatalities.

El broke out a couple solo tracks including “Tougher Colder Killer” (on which Killer Mike is originally featured) and “The Full Retard”, then Mike broke out R.A.P. Music highlight “Untitled” to earsplitting applause. New-ish track “Pew Pew Pew” made it into the fray later in the show as did the just recently hinted at RTJ2 track “Blockbuster Night”, which the two have only played live one or two times prior. From beginning to end, the two were pure hip-hop magic, unabashed positive energy, and wolfish bloodlust. Run The Jewels continue to prove their deserved title as the best duo out there, and there’s no better place to learn that truth than firsthand.

Run The Jewels 2 is on the brink of release, and you will want to cop it when it drops. If you still haven’t downloaded the first one, grab it here. Then, you’ll have a couple months to play it day and night before Run The Jewels bring the new album to the Seattle stage in March. If “Blockbuster Night” is any indication, you’re not ready.

Run the Jewels:

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