By now, Run the Jewels have pretty much got their formula down. For a group that seems to get some perverse joy from breaking formulae, this could be a warning sign. However, even though you’ve got a fair idea of what’s coming within the first few bars of their new track, “No Save Point”, the punch still lands.
You’ve got all your favourite RTJ hallmarks: your pummeling kicks, your old school “hey”s, your scattered snares, your droning synths, your oblique and cheerfully apocalyptic El-P verse and your more direct but equally apocalyptic Killer Mike verse. As the end of the world grows nearer, many artists are clamouring for that elusive slot on the End of Days soundtrack. “No Save Point” solidifies Run the Jewels’ claim to the spot.
The track is taken from the soundtrack to the upcoming ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ game, which is apparently set in a grim, dystopian, Blade Runner, neon-drenched future. Based on my extensive stanning of El-P’s work, I would guess that he didn’t find making this beat too much of a stretch. His line, “Morality is only a memory when belly’s empty”, is a devastating critique of modern capitalism on a par with prime Chomsky.
Killer Mike takes the ‘Matrix’ angle for his verse, evoking a high-tech civil war against the corporate overseers and their nefarious agents. If Mike’s on you looking like, as he puts it, “Keanu Reeves, cyber arm under my sleeve”, you’re done out here.
It’s not a radical departure for the Atlanta and New York duo, but their music is radical enough to not really require it. There’s something reassuring about Mike and El constantly reminding us of our inescapable doom.