Run The Jewels and the Art of Segue
Run the Jewels 3 is the 3rd studio album produced by the rap duo “Run the Jewels”. Digitally released on December 24th.I happened to be driving down to Portland from Seattle when I decided to give this album a listen. Typically a 2 and a half hour drive, I figured this would provide me with plenty of time. After finishing the album I immediately went back and listened to the entire thing all over again. Over the next week, I found myself being drawn back to this album and I started wondering what exactly kept bringing me back. Was it the poignant verses, or the hard hitting bass lines? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Finally, after about my 4th or 5th listen, I finally figured it out.
When you think of the word ‘segway’, you typically think of the ridiculous two wheeled vehicles usually associated with mall cops and rich yuppies. In reality, the musical term ‘segue’ means “an uninterrupted transition from one piece of music (or film) to another”; and in this case, it’s the quality that this album possesses that really sets it apart for me. El-P and Killer Mike do something that’s extremely challenging; seamlessly blending their tracks together while maintaining variety and getting their message across.
The first two tracks on the album really highlight this. ‘Down’ and ‘Talk to Me’ are so seamless it would be very easy to think that they are in fact one song broken into two parts. If you watch the song time, the melody changes to that of ‘Talk to Me’ approximately 9 seconds before ‘Down’ ends which allows the two songs to flow so well. Most songs are structured to have some sort of introduction, and a tapered off ending. In contrast, most of the songs on RTJ3 start and stop very suddenly. Keep track of the individual beats and you’ll find that only one beat elapses after the end of one song and the beginning of the the next song on the second beat.
Musically, it doesn’t give the listener time to “reset” and prepare for a new song. Jumping straight into the next song, usually with a very similar sound, conveys that auditory flow. The downside to this is that you risk becoming repetitive or boring. It’s here, that their brilliance shines through again.
The tempo of their songs remains pretty much constant, however the rhythms on the individual tracks change constantly. By changing the timing of the lyrics, it allows variation between songs and changes the perceived tempo, allowing them to control the pace and flow of the album while simultaneously setting up for the next song.
This technique is just one of the many reasons why I believe this album is so great. It gives Run the Jewels the ability to convey their art and their message in a way that keeps the listener enraptured; almost as if you’re on a musical journey with El-P and Killer Mike as your guides. I firmly believe that Run the Jewels 3 is an early contender for one of the best hip-hop albums of 2017.