A quick programming note: El-P and Killer Mike’s Run The Jewels is out now, and it is a monster. The music I usually consider for this column is the music that’s out there for legal free download, and Run The Jewels qualifies on that front. But El has repeatedly insisted on Twitter that Run The Jewels is an album, not a mixtape, and I don’t want to piss off anyone who’s rapping with El’s current level of throat-slit intensity. So because of that, and because physical copies of Run The Jewels are out there for sale right now, I’m considering that one for Album Of The Week rather than this column. Anyway.
Other than the odd street sign collision, nothing Kanye West does these days is an accident. So when he only brings in one guest-rapper on all of Yeezus, he’s telling us something. On Yeezus, Kanye mines the past few decades of music for the hardest, most punishing sounds he can find: Synthetic postpunk grind, apocalyptic dancehall, primitivist early house, confrontational industrial throb. And Kanye’s one rapping guest comes from Kanye’s hometown but represents a scene very different from anything that existed when Kanye actually lived in Chicago. It’s King Louie, hammerhead uncle of Chicago’s dead-eyed and minimalistic drill music subgenre, and he verbally slaps the shit out of the dope-as-fuck “Send It Up.” (Drill star Chief Keef also shows up, singing and making an unlikely duet partner for Justin Vernon on “Hold My Liquor.”) Kanye uses drill music on Yeezus because he hears it as elemental facepunch music, music of dead-souled violence, and it certainly can be that. But this month, King Louie also showed up on another Chicago rap full-length, one that shows just how fun and lively and engaging drill music can be.