The internet is spaghetti. That is, it’s the physical manifestation of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. It’s a breeding ground for weirdness because of its ability to magnify jokes, to take one crazy idea and multiply it exponentially, and bring together a large enough group of humans to sustain unassailably weird projects. Just think of the bounty we’ve collectively reaped: hungover owls, Salad Fingers, Disney princesses with Steve Buscemi eyes, and thousands more — an infinity of absurd ideas. And now this: the Internet’s favorite rap group combined with the Internet’s favorite animal.
As many good ideas do, Meow the Jewels started as a joke. Killer Mike and El-P offered ridiculous pricing tiers for the pre-order of Run the Jewels 2, one of which was a $40,000 tier featuring a cat remix album. They specified that those tiers were in no way real, but the internet being the internet, a Kickstarter appeared instantly. Never one to shy away from a good-bad idea, El-P took up the mantle: if the money got raised, not only would RTJ make Meow the Jewels, but they’d donate all proceeds to charity, including to the families of Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, and others affected by police brutality, effectively turning a goofy idea into a piece of social activism.
Needless to say, the effort was a success. So here we have this album, this true product of meme culture — the internet as thing. We have a furry new package as the jewel runners go full Cheezburger, pointing claws and snatching collars. In case you had any doubts that this would be anything but a trip down what-the-fuck lane, the first track is called “Meowpurrdy” and features Lil Bub and Snoop Dogg.
And the puns. THE PUNS. “All Meow Life”, “Paw Due Respect”, “Close Your Eyes and Meow to Fluff”. The puns alone are worth the download. But here’s the thing about MTJ: it bangs. Hard. Harder than any album consisting of cat sounds for beats has any right to. It’s as delightfully weird as it is confoundingly successful. It doesn’t rival the original, of course, but it never tried to, and those low stakes freed up a team of crack producers to make the finest feline-based album in the history of everdom.
And make no mistake: the smartest move here was to enlist a range of producers. It gives the album what it needed—a dose of variety to distract from the fact that, you know, the low end is mostly purr and the high hats are fucking hisses. Each producer leaves his or her stamp: “Oh My Darling Don’t Meow” becomes a drug-addled fever dream in the hands of Just Blaze, “Meowpurrdy” sounds exactly like you would imagine an El-P cat production to sound like, The Alchemist’s “Creown” is a Disneyesque march complete with Trailer Park Boys samples, and “Pawfluffer Night” was handled by Zola Jesus, so it was bound to devolve into a hypnotic, overpowering pile of noise. The relatively minimalist production actually adds nuance to the MTJ2 lyrical experience, exposing an aw-shucks slyness in Mike’s delivery and knife-sharp virulence to certain El-P lines that the original production dulled.
Otherwise, it’s strangely business as usual: fuckboys are still on notice, and the army of cats meowing and yelping offstage punctuates the point. You’ve never heard a sound more organically menacing than the low-end purr on “Close Your Eyes and Meow to Fluff.”
It takes an album that’s beyond hard to take the full cat treatment and still stand on its own two paws, and it’s doubtful any other rappers could even dream of pulling this off. Most of the internet’s ideas end up in a wet mess on the kitchen floor, but this one, this one sticks.