Killa Mike for President: Run The Jewels in Charlotte
Walking into the Fillmore you could feel the excitement vibrating between bodies as they moved into position. Bar lines packed full with anticipation to try the specialty Run the Jewels and Interboro Spirits & Ales IPA brew, "Stay Gold." Charlotte was fortunate enough to taste the beer, being the second and only other city, behind New York City, that previewed it.
Waiting patiently in the background, the stage sat illuminated red with two giant gun and fist hands with Run The Jewels written on the front of the DJ booth set up in the center of the stage. Conversation buzzed in a low rumbling hum helping to exhaust some of the fans built up excitement, but the wait would be over all too soon. The show would drain every ounce of energy that started out readily available and in abundance, leaving a pool of exhausted and overstimulated bodies in its wake.
Charlotte rapper Well$ took the stage to open for RTJ. Rapping since he was nine-years-old, Well$ released his fourth LP The Way I'm Living Makes My Mom Nervous in October 2016 and is gaining industry traction. He's landed opening gigs for big names like RTJ, Waka Flaka, and Sylvan Esso. Demanding hype and participation from the crowd, Well$ delivered an engaging and energetic set featuring popular songs such as "XXX," "130," and "Young Man." Promising we would get the RTJ experience we were waiting for, and thanking everyone for the love, the lights dimmed down and Well$ exited stage right.
A brave few scooted to the bar and bathroom during the break between sets, but the majority stayed in place. Rule #1: the only move you make at a general admission standing room only show is forward, towards the stage. The clock struck 9:10p.m. and a soft echo of voices started chanting: "RTJ....RTJ....RTJ!" continuing until it included every voice in the room, "RTJ.....RTJ....RTJ!"
The DJ entered the booth, with his hands in the air encouraging our chants as the stage turned a blue hue shining out across the crowd. "ARE YOU READY?!" he asked as the chants turned to solid screams and the opening beats rolled out of the speakers, Killa Mike appeared, El-P right behind and "We are the champions, my friend....." echoed. It was go time.
Opening the set with "Talk To Me" from the latest LP released in 2016 Run The Jewels 3 the crowd jumped up and down as if on demand. "We return from the depths of the badland," the wooden floor beneath us vibrating with the bass, Killa Mike and El-P had arms in the air as if directing the crowds jumping, arms rising and falling matching the up/down drops in the beat.
Sliding directly into the second song "Legend Has It" just as the album does, voices joining together chanting along to the lyrics and when the line hit, "And the crowd goes..." every voice responded in unison "RTJ....RTJ!" Fists air punching the sky with each letter. Song number four brought the first throwback to the 2014 album Run The Jewels 2 with hit "Blockbuster Night, Pt.1."
Leaning over the front of the stage, Killa Mike and El-P dropped verse after verse into the mic without ever seeming to take a breath. Almost exactly mid-set the opening beats of "Panther Like a Panther" trickled out and if someone had lit a match the room would've erupted in flames. Maybe it's the mention of a Panther and our cities Carolina Panthers mascot coincidence that brings it, or maybe it's the catchy hook lyrics, "Looking at the money like it's mine to get, I'm the shit bitch, Everybody down, throw the pistol and fist!"
Hands across the room shooting up in the famous pistol and fist of the logo in response, but whatever it is pushed the energy of the room into organized chaos resulting in non-stop dancing, jumping, and chanting along. Telling us it was time for them to go, the duo threw up the pistol/fist and gave us one last tune. "Down" the first song on Run The Jewels 3 was the last of the night for CLT.
Applause erupted and continued steadily until the inevitable turn up of the chandeliers, a signal that we didn't have to go home, but we couldn't stay here. Bodies slowly but steadily poured out the side door into the bitter cold, with voices still chanting "RTJ!"
The fans of Charlotte music knew that was more than just your average show. It was Run The Jewels first show in our city, and like an unspoken rule or a commitment to exceed concert crowd expectations, they left it all on that dance floor. Thank you fans, you did us proud.