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Album reviews
Artist:
Run the Jewels
Album:
RTJ4
Release year:
2020
Label:
Jewel Runners
16 June 2020 / by Benjamin Gingerich (author)

 

RTJ has entered the chat. After 4 long years they have returned at last and - given the political climate of the past month - it couldn't come fast enough. In the midst of the current large scale Black Lives Matter movement, Run The Jewels has delivered us their most cohesive, sonically dense, and lyrically potent project to date. The unlikely duo of NYC underground hip hop producer El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike deliver some pretty heavy hitting discourse throughout the record, but the beats are so hard that you can still bump it in any setting. It is to me, a true skipless album.


The album opens with 'yankee and the brave (ep 4.)', which to me just screams “guess who’s back?!?” It’s a high energy slap in the face reacquaintance to yankee (El-P) and the brave (Killer Mike). Directly following this is 'ohh la la', and oh my lord is it ever a banger. El-P beautifully encapsulates the east coast sample based hip hop that he grew up in, with the main beat being a beautiful warbly piano loop played under a sample of Greg Nice from Gang Starr's DWYCK. Meanwhile, the viciously high energy "out of sight" features a sample of Foster Sylver’s Misdemeanor, that's compressed so heavily to the point that it sounds crunched. To close out the song is fellow Atlanta legend 2 Chainz, who delivers an entertaining albeit not entirely hard hitting verse. 

 With 'walking in the snow', RTJ remind us that they are masters of crafting hooks. Featuring Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo, I can’t get “JUST GOT DONE WALKIN IN THE SNOW, GODDAMN THAT MOTHAFUCKA COLD” out of my head. Killa Mike throws down a very heavy, meaningful verse about systemic racism, very fitting for this current time. Upon first listening, one bar that stood out to me was “and you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me, until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper ‘I can’t breathe”. Immediately I thought of George Floyd, and was fascinated by how Killer Mike was quick to write that powerful verse, after all the murder of Floyd happened only 9 days prior to the release of this album. But then I remembered that, unfortunately, Floyd isn’t the only black individual to have sparked riots with the words “I can’t breathe”. I think back to the murder of Eric Garner, who also died at the hands of officers who were “detaining” him. Is the bar about Garner? Or both? Until we find out when exactly that verse was written it’s a mystery, but it does feel very on the nose to be a coincidence. Regardless, the line holds a double connotation and made me think more about it, which is a testament to not only how awful police brutality is, but to how powerful music can be.

Overall, this album goes many different places as far as mood, but always seems to find its way back to being a political statement. The flows from El-P and Killer Mike are aggressive, but seem to flow effortlessly like butter. For the fourth time, the duo delivers an impassioned document of our current moment. 

 

Rating: 8.5/10


 

The author

Benjamin Gingerich

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