Soundscapes: Run the Jewels 2

Run the Jewels 2 Cover Art (From Pitchfork)

This is the first installment of Soundscapes, the music album review series that doesn’t actually talk about the music. If this doesn’t make sense, you can read my intro and reviewing philosophy here. Please excuse the delay; it will probably happen again.The first album “in review” is Run the Jewels 2 by Killer Mike and El-P. You can listen to it on our Spotify here.

This morning, D. woke up. He leered out his bedroom window and saw an overcast sky. It was going to be another one of those days. When the shower’s taunting hiss had mercifully ended, he cut through the steam of his poorly ventilated bathroom to check the day’s weather. His phone told him there was a chance of severe thunderstorms.

D. sat at his kitchen table, waiting for drip of his hot coffee. He checked his phone. Four new emails from people looking to ‘connect’. He leapt at the rumbling of the coffee machine to turn it off, and immediately knocked his head onto an open cabinet door, its brass handle hitting him squarely above the eyes. On his way out, D. grabbed an umbrella, his case briefings, plugged in his rosewood earbuds, and left his high-rise for the day. D. was always prepared for the day.

He lived near the river in a nice part of town, with quite a pleasant view. Today, the street running between his building and the river was blocked off so the contractors renovating D.’s building could replace the underground pipes. Only the cautionary eeeep of a reversing tractor (was it a tractor?) invaded his musical bubble. It was a big, dirty mess.

The morning’s schedule brought him to the county jail, located just outside of downtown. A flash of ID, a security sweep, the boom of a heavy metal door, and D. was in a room, alone, with another young man. D.’s legs bounced vigorously, a soft, rustling, steady beat punctuating the stillness of the closed chamber. His client leaned over the table, with seeking eyes. D. lit a cigarette. The inmate began the conversation.

“What’s poppin?”

“Nice to meet you, A.”

D. was a medical malpractice lawyer. Some time before, he received a fax summoning him to serve as the public defender for a case. He knew little about drug-related offenses, undergrad experiments aside.

“Alright, you need to tell me exactly what happened so I can best defend you.”

“I was just tryin to smoke and chill! I was on the porch with my family, and a squad car pulled over and the two guys threw me on the ground.”

D. was already deliberating internally what kind of plea deal he should accept. There was a 2 o’clock meeting with a podiatrist that he needed to prep for.

“They locked me up for blowin down! I wasn’t selling anything. And they threatened my wife too! Why the cops always have to treat us like animals?”

D. interrogated various threads of A.’s story. “Have you ever sold drugs there before? Why did you have to smoke outside?” A. sensed D.’s resignation. “How are you gonna help me?” D. detachedly reassured him. “Just relax, it’s really not that complicated.” It wasn’t complicated. He didn’t have the time to fight for months over this stupid case.

And thus hummed along D.’s morning. Before going back to the office and forfeiting the final few minutes of his lunch break, D. had a quick smoke out in front of the building. He dashed across the crosswalk, to a chorus of blaring horns from shiny black and silver sedans, dutifully making sure to get more than 25 feet away from the building’s entrance. He posted up alongside three construction workers squawking about local sports. His lighter flickered and went out five or six times until D. retreated to the granite corner of the overhead building for a safe haven. An ad overhead on the side of the building for a new for-profit school read, “You could be a dentist.”

The sky was a puffy gray. The wind had certainly begun to stir. He flicked at his ash and watched it briskly loop away, out towards the gutter across the street, an extended, consistent drop. D. enjoyed dropping his cigarette butt into the gutter on rainy days like today, and strained to take in the cathartic hissss of the extinguished embers.

At 4:56 pm, D. was finished with his schedule. The repeater-like patter behind him signaled that the weather app’s prediction might have been spot on.

Stepping through the brass doorway, D. was narrowly slapped across the face by a plastic bag. The rain was falling at a considerably horizontal angle. While he lived just 10 or so blocks away, D. was quite a frugal man and always tried to walk, but today he had a million precipitating reasons to take the subway, which let him off right by his place. About 50 feet of fluvial concrete stood between D. and shelter. He took off, and halfway through his gallop, D. lost his footing. With a soiled bottom, D. slumped into the subway station.

Sam Cooke crooned through the bluetooth speaker. With dinner finished and the plates stacked somewhere in the general vicinity of the sink, D. sat down with his country’s “Paper of Record”. The content of the local news is often too negative and too inconsequential. While reading on his electronic tablet, D. failed to note the notification flashing across his screen, this time portending a much graver event. A tornado was spotted touching down about 30 miles away, and his apartment complex sat firmly within the zone of potential twisters. He checked his email one last time. Someone from the morning was following up.

D. brushed his teeth, finding a moment of peace in the sustained hush of water from his faucet. It had been quite the day — a wasted morning, a bruised forehead, and a bruised ass. D. could care less what was going on outside.

By twelve o’clock, the dirty earth around his building’s construction site was a thick swamp. As the darkness grew, the gales grew more powerful. The orange, sand-filled fitch modules had been thrown from their rubber moorings. Some had gotten caught in the iron fence next door, others were still riding the wave of raging air. Most had already exploded, freeing their contents into the night sky. A greenhorn reporter from Channel 7 cried out into the lone spotlight of her camera a block away from D.’s building.

Around 2:30 AM, the power went out in his building. Another one had touched down, causing havoc in the power grid. Ten minutes later, all the windows blew in, the dissonant rebel yell of a million silicate particles. D. was sound asleep.