On the night before the inauguration of Donald Trump, emotions in DC were running high. But Run the Jewels, the rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P who recently released the critically-acclaimed Run The Jewels 3, wanted to make a big political statement of their own. And not only did Run the Jewels beat expectations on such an important night, they absolutely destroyed them, giving the crowd a much-needed emotional release along with a special surprise guest at a sold-out Echostage.
Of course, this perfect timing would not have occurred if it weren’t for a water main break the previous Thursday, causing a last-minute cancellation. According to El-P, the two choices for rescheduling were either on El-P’s birthday, or the day before the inauguration. In his words, “History wants RTJ here right fucking now.” It was obvious that they had a lot on their minds. Throughout the show, they shared words of wisdom and encouragement for the pessimistic masses. At one point, Killer Mike reminded the crowd: “The day after tomorrow, this is still our motherfucking country! I don’t give a fuck who is president! And what will keep this republic going is truth, honesty, integrity, love, and democracy!” But as important as this pre-inaugural pep talk was for a city at the epicenter of the transition of power, the music is what brought everyone to them in the first place.
Although there were microphone stands on stage for them, it’s obvious that they’re not ones to stand still for more than five seconds. They often switched spots on stage, pacing back and forth and making sure they performed for every corner of the room. Their verses are smooth and confident on their albums, but in a live setting, the words became a brash, in-your-face invitation to start a mosh pit. When they told the crowd to jump on songs like “Run the Jewels” and “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, they happily and repeatedly obliged. But the biggest roars of applause came at the end: introducing Zach de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine for the final two songs of their set, they ripped through absolutely incendiary renditions of “Kill Your Masters” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”.
Run the Jewels are no strangers to making political statements - after all, it’s a cornerstone of their music. But doing so in DC on the eve of a presidential inauguration, bringing Zach de la Rocha out as a special guest, and having Killer Mike perform a snippet of his solo track “Reagan” made this statement especially poignant. They were (and continue to be) nothing short of some of the most confident and in-your-face rappers in the game.
Opening for Run the Jewels was producer/DJ Nick Hook (whose LP Relationships is out now on Fool’s Gold Records), Atlanta rapper Gangsta Boo (her latest single is “Loc’d Out Smoked Out”) and Little Rock, Arkansas rapper CUZ.