ACL Fest 2017: Run The Jewels display wordplay wizardry

Of course no one was going to steal the show from Killer Mike or El-P once they took the stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival, but Bruce sure did try.

Jay Janner/Austin American-StatesmanKiller Mike, left, and El-P of Run The Jewels perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Sunday October 8, 2017.

Bruce was a fan pulled from the crowd about 20 minutes into the set when the MCs saw his sign claiming he could rap Killer Mike’s parts on the Run The Jewels track “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” That being no easy feat, the performers decided to let the super fan – wearing a T-shirt with the group’s signature pistol-and-fist imagery – take a turn on the microphone, with the added hurdle that he had to perform without a backing beat to keep the rhythm. And if he slipped even a bit he’d lose the mic and be shown back to he crowd.

But wouldn’t you know it, a minute-long blur of ballerinas and Pontiac Catalinas later, Bruce backed up his brag and won the cheers of the audience and slaps on the back from his apparent heroes.

That crowd-pleasing diversion was about the only pause in the hour-long set that saw the ATL-meets-NYC pairing make yet another argument for them being the best live hip-hop act currently active.

With lyrical flows that regularly exceed 100 words per minute it’d be easy for each rapper’s delivery to turn into a blur of syllables, but the vocal control and movement in timbre and dynamics they put to use constantly adds an important textural variety within songs and individual verses. That helps preserve the inherent bounce that is so crucial to making Run The Jewels a group that stands pretty far apart from its peers.

It’s also part of why next Saturday they’ll become perhaps the most lyrically aggressive and profane rap group to record an episode of the Austin City Limits television show.

One does wonder, even with the show having plenty of lead time for editing purposes, how the show’s producers will manage the bleeps or silences in the audio to obscure objectionable words from the eventual public television broadcast.

Whoever gets that task will need to have a pretty deep knowledge of the lyrical nooks and crannies of the group’s three-album and possibly million-word canon. Hope someone can get them Bruce’s phone number. Seems like he’s up to the task.

Set list:

  • 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
  • Close Your Eyes (And Count To (Expletive))
  • Hey Kids (w/ Danny Brown)
  • Report To The Shareholders/Kill Your Masters
  • Thursday In The Danger Room
  • Angel Duster

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