You wouldn’t expect guys named after the act of robbery with song titles like “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and “DDFH”—an acronym for “Do Dope Fuck Hope”—to preach peace and love, but Run the Jewels peppered their set at Brooklyn Bowl Friday night with enough kindness to start a kumbaya circle, albeit in their signature intense manner.
The rules were simple: “Respect everyone the fuck around you” and “If you see someone fall down, even if you don’t know them, you pick them the fuck up.” Of course there were caveats: “If we see you touching a girl [inappropriately], we’re gonna kick you in your fucking face,” Killer Mike said. That hardcore ethos drew cheers from the compacted crowd of what Killer Mike referred to as “beautiful brilliant desert dwelling motherfuckers”
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
For just over an hour, the rap tag team filled Brooklyn Bowl with caustic beats, breathless rhymes and an epileptic light show. Fans bounced with fists and finger pistols raised, mimicking the RTJ logo. The front of the room turned into a mosh pit, feeding off the energy of the veteran emcees, who traded verses and rapped back-to-back like they were on the cover of Lethal Weapon. From “Legends Has It” to “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1” to “Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry),” they delivered a barrage of bangers. They broke only a few times for dialogue—and those are the moments that revealed who El-P and Killer Mike truly are.
Before “Down,” Mike opened up about his mother’s mental health and her attempted suicide, urging those who need help to call someone, and for those on the receiving end of those calls to “let them know they’re loved.” Having performed here two years ago during Life is Beautiful 2015 (watch our backstage interview here), El-P addressed Las Vegas’ emotional state: “You guys have been through enough bullshit to last a goddamn lifetime.”
Though it wasn’t dedicated to the victims of 1 October, RTJ closed their set with “Thursday in the Danger Room,” a song about coping with death. The sobering chorus was all too real for Las Vegans: “I guess I say you left too soon / But the truth is that you never left / ‘Cause I never let myself forget.”
Thank you RTJ for providing some much-needed, foul-mouthed warmth for a community coping with loss.