Well that’s just great. Just when they were really hitting their stride, the two members of Run the Jewels announced they intended to break up after their sold-out show Tuesday at Myth nightclub in Maplewood. They only lasted four years and are survived by their very capable DJ, Trackstar.
“I’m starting a solo poetry career,” claimed El-P, the rapper in the duo with the producer skills.
“I’m going to become an organic farmer,” added Killer Mike, the rapper with the incendiary lyrical technique.
OK, maybe the two middle-aged heroes of underground rap were only messing with the 3,500 rowdy fans — in particular, the guy at the front of the packed crowd who had just shown them his fresh tattoo of the Run the Jewels’ logo. “Terrible timing,” El-P said to the fan.
Also, it seems unlikely the duo would pick a club next to a suburban shopping mall for a final blowout, although they did make the most of the location. Killer Mike (Michael Render) — a well-established Atlanta rapper affiliated with OutKast and T.I. before he formed RTJ — bragged about going “shopping at the Macy’s” that day.
Brooklyn native El-P (Jaime Meline), who was an early peer of the local Rhymesayers crew, marveled at the number of fans inside the venue. “I’ve been coming to your area since the ’90s,” he said. “I can’t believe how many people came here.”
If Tuesday’s concert really was a last stand, then at least Run the Jewels’ epitaphs can say they went out at the top of their game. Their 80-minute performance was made all the more lethal and ribcage-rattling by the songs off their new album, “RTJ3.”
The duo started out with the heavy-booming “Talk to Me” — which begs to be a boxer’s walk-on anthem — and followed with two other new tunes. Fans mouthed the lyrics from the get-go, and it only took until the third one, “Call Tickerton,” for the crowd to let out a loud cheer out of sheer amazement over Killer Mike’s masterful rapid-tongue delivery.
With the dramatic cadence of a Southern preacher and the deep bellow of a Northern Minnesota iron-ore drill, Mike was the unequivocal star of the show. No slouch himself, El-P kicked off a darker new standout, “Panther Like a Panther,” but then stepped aside like one of LeBron James’ teammates.
El-P did more of the between-song talking, including a political rant decrying certain “war-mongering, decrepit, dark souls” before the “RTJ2” album highlight “Lie, Cheat, Steal.”
RTJ is a duo first and foremost, though, and a reminder of the extra rhythmic and kinetic energy that seemed to flow out of classic tag-team acts like Run-D.M.C. and EPMD. “Not from the same part of town, but we hear the same sounds coming,” El-P fittingly rapped in the pre-encore finale, “A Report to the Shareholders,” one of a few songs that touched on a resist-and-persevere theme on the new album.
Their uncanny and perhaps unlikely chemistry was evident even in the one song offered off their first album, the eponymous anthem “Run the Jewels.” The fact that RTJ has already outgrown that well-liked first record is a sign of the amazing output the duo has already enjoyed in four short years. No way they could call it quits now.