This weekend, Run the Jewels performed in New York and I got to see them up close and personal thanks to my gorgeous rapper friend Gangsta Boo. Run the Jewels is a duo consisting of rappers El-P and Killer Mike, and Boo did a verse for the song “Love Again” on their critically acclaimed new album, Run the Jewels 2.
I made it back from Thanksgiving with the family just in time to catch the show at Stage 48 Sunday night. First we all hung out backstage.
From left to right: Boots (who I recently saw open for FKA twigs); Trackstar; me; Boo; Emily Panic; Shay Bigga; El-P; Ms. I-don’t-remember-her-name-probably-because-I-was-hypnotized-by-her-Jim-Morrison-t-shirt; and Killer Mike.
Boo was wearing Wendy Brandes jewelry designs, of course.
Then it was showtime, and the sold-out audience was insane! I had brought along my new concert friend, Jessie, who watched from the upstairs VIP area, while I watched from the side of the stage. At one point, I texted her, “Do you think we would survive this front row?” and she replied “Helllll no,” though she added “But it looks like so much fun.” Two people who came close to passing out were given water from the peeps onstage and backstage, and one of them was actually pulled up ON to the stage because he was in such bad shape. This general-admission concert stuff is a serious workout. Don’t try it unless you’ve gotten yourself into shape first, for God’s sake!
Here’s “Love Again.”
And here’s a shorter clip of Boo’s performance taken by Jessie — you can actually see Boo more clearly from this angle.
The New York Observer called the show “nearly air-tight” and a “live powerhouse.” It also quoted El-P’s sarcastic remark: “You’re probably wondering how two 18-year-old men can get up here and do what they do.” He’s 39, as is Killer Mike. I literally laughed out loud at what Mike had to say about age in a recent interview for The L Magazine.
“… I used to sit around and wonder, who’s gonna finally say, ‘Fuck it. I’m an adult, I still love rap,’ and keep rapping and not have an end date. Who were gonna be those rappers? We fucked around, and we’re those guys. I’m not ashamed of my age, I don’t feel unhip that I’m older. I feel like, ‘Motherfucker, I’m gonna get in here and rap the fucking shit like a Christmas present! What are you going to do about me?’
I go to my 17-year-old daughter’s high school, little boys throw up Run the Jewels logos, and yell out ‘Killer Mike!’ and embarrass her. We’re dope at this shit, there’s no end date on this motherfucker.”
The interviewer noted, “Embarrassing your kids has to be an underrated adult pleasure,” and Mike replied:
“As a parent of four children, I love it! I love fucking their shit up. [laughs] No greater pleasure, man.”
BWAH! That gives me life, especially because I’ve noticed a lot of the criticism of Eminem’s new album is focused on his age and the fact that he has daughters in college. I understand how people get angry at lots of lyrics or believe an artist should evolve in a certain way — I don’t always disagree — but I’m not sure how relevant an artist’s age and the educational status of his or her children are. It’s like some of the criticism of Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine nudes: “You’re someone’s mother!” Are you only allowed to express your crazy self before you have children? But that doesn’t even help because they can find out what you did before they came on the scene. And what does “acting your age” mean anyway? When I hear or read that phrase I wonder how many things I’m doing that are “my age” and how many aren’t, and if I’m in big trouble with the thought/behavior police for the unapproved shit. But, like Killer Mike said, “What are you going to do about me?”
I feel that as long as the kids aren’t taking out restraining orders against their parents (I draw the line there!), we strangers with no knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors don’t have to get all in loco parentis on someone’s ass because of what mom or dad does to entertain people. Just hate the words because you hate the words, y’all!
Speaking of words, Killer Mike had some intriguing ones printed in USA Today yesterday about the Elonis v. U.S. case being heard by the Supreme Court. Anthony Elonis of Pennsylvania was convicted for making threats on Facebook against his ex-wife and an FBI agent. The attorney challenging his conviction says that Elonis was venting in an artistic way, comparing his words to Eminem‘s. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says it’s all about context, pointing out that most of the posts occurred after Elonis’ wife had gotten a protective order, and that Elonis “reasonably foresaw what the reaction would be.” NPR quoted Fitzgerald as rejecting the comparison to rap music:
“The wife would read this and think, this is not an artistic statement, this is not a political statement about a larger cause … This is trying to get inside her head and make her think there could be someone doing violence to her.”
“… the latest — and highest level — in a disturbingly long line of cases in which rap lyrics have been used as evidence in criminal trials.”
Nielson and Mike continue:
“Ignoring many of the elements that signal rap as form of artistic expression, such as rappers’ use of stage names or their frequent use of metaphor and hyperbole, prosecutors will present rap as literal autobiography. In effect, they ask jurors to suspend the distinction between author and narrator, reality and fiction, to secure guilty verdicts.”
The piece argues:
“No other fictional form — musical, literary or cinematic — is used this way in the courts, a concerning double standard that research suggests is rooted, at least in part, in stereotypes about the people of color primarily associated with rap music, as well as the misconception that hip-hop and the artists behind it are dangerous.”
I’m always bringing up the point about other forms of fiction when people get hyped about song lyrics. As someone with a strange addiction to Criminal Minds and Law & Order SVU, I’ve been floored by the perversity that graces broadcast television’s primetime hours with the input of dozens of showrunners, writers, actors, crew, plus the financial support of advertisers. Very recently, I thought to myself, “I have to stop watching this crap,” after becoming nauseated by a Criminal Minds rerun in which a guy kills and cooks a woman who rejected him and then forces other women to dine on her. When a tooth from the first woman was fished out of another victim’s stomach during an autopsy, I had to go lie down and brood over the welfare of the writers’ children. How could they hold their heads up in school knowing mommy or daddy came up with that plot line?! Okay, I actually didn’t worry about the welfare of the kids but I did lie down and reconsider my viewing habits and marvel about the kind of people who dreamed up and acted out that scenario for my amusement. I’ve always avoided torture-porn movies like Hostel, Saw, and The Human Centipede, but are those really so much worse than what I was seeing for free on CBS? (I respect actor Mandy Patinkin for quitting Criminal Minds — I couldn’t take that kind of storyline all day every workday either — but his former colleague Jeanne Tripplehorn makes some good points too.)
Maybe one day I’ll come to my senses and stop watching this particular show — or maybe I will always watch it because I love to be horrified — but I don’t foresee purging all my entertainment options of everything but the G-rated, and I’m not going to cut off my law-abiding friends who love playing Grand Theft Auto. At the same time, I’m not going to give my two-year-old niece a Criminal Minds box set or buy my six-year-old nephew Grand Theft Auto V. (I’m sure when he’s older, there will be something much more violent that he’ll happily buy for himself.) But would I run to the radio to flip away from the 60s on 6 station if “Run for Your Life” — a Beatles song cited by Elonis’s side — came on while the kids were in the room? Nah! But here are the lyrics:
“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or I won’t know where I am.”
It’s a catchy little tune, and I’ve never paid much attention to the lyrics or taken them seriously even as I’ve sung along with them, but they sure look scary out of context, don’t they? (Complicating matters is the fact that the first two lines of that quoted section originated in the Arthur Gunter-written song “Baby Let’s Play House,” covered by Elvis in 1955.) Alas! I’m never going to be politically correct enough for my beloved Gloria Steinem!