The most anticipated hip-hop album of 2020 has arrived. Run The Jewels, the duo consisting of Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and Definitive Jux founder/rapper/producer El-P, are finally releasing their 4th LP, RTJ4.
Since their last effort with RTJ3, their popularity has only grown further with their music often being used in movies/trailers, with the most notable being DJ Shadow’s “Don’t Speak” and Danger Mouse’s “Chase Me” (from Baby Drive). They also have release some loosie tracks here and there, such as “Let’s Go (The Royal We)” which was featured in Venom, and they also did a music video for “Oh Mama” as a remix/crossover with Rick and Morty. That makes sense since they were introduced to each other via SVP/Creative Director of Adult Swim, Jason DeMarco.
With 2 singles released and a tracklist that certainly got us hyped, how’s the album?
I’ll say this: with what’s going on in the world right now, the songs here are very fitting. But yes, we have another solid record from these two.
Before I get to those tracks, let’s begin with the two singles. “yankee and the brave” opens like an old prime time TV show with the usual spittin’ out bars galore from these two, and of course there’s “oh la la”, which is a solid banger featuring production from the legendary DJ Premier as well as Greg Nice doing the hook.
Lookin’ for M’s like I lost a friend
Jump out of my bed like, “Where the bread?”
You gon’ hold a egg, waiter bring the check
When we talk, we Kalashnikov, keep us in your thoughts
I used to love Bruce, but livin’ my vida loca
Helped me understand I’m probably more of a Joker
When we usher in chaos, just know that we did it smiling
Cannibals on this island, inmates run the asylum
Now for some other cuts from the album: “out of sight” instantly became a favorite track of mine, using a very familiar sample in “Misdemeanor” by Foster Sylvers, which was also sampled in tracks like “It’s Funky Enough” by The D.O.C, “Soliloquy of Chaos” by Gang Starr & “That’s Gangsta” by Shyne, and 2 Chainz completely snapped on this verse. “holy calamafuck” just sounds like a track that would be mindblowing and at the first part of the song, it was already ranking high, but then that beat switch came and that phrase was uttered in my mind.
Run, here come the menaces to sobriety, like what? (What?)
Super thuggers thumpin’ on the cut
What? My motherfuckin’ Uzi weighs a ton
Hit the drum ’til you hear it go, “Brrup-pum-pum-pum”
Run, piety just really isn’t us, what a rush
See you cuttin’ up a pie, that’s my lunch
Run your motherfuckin’ pockets when I come
It’s an honor to be robbed by Denise’s only son
Now we need to talk about “walking in the snow.” The topic of this is police brutality and the system screwing over people that are at the bottom, whether it be ICE keeping immigrant children in their jail cells, hypocrisy among Christians or “Judeo-Christians” and of course, police unjustly killing black people, and this set of lyrics specifically stick out.
The way I see it, you’re probably freest from the ages one to four
Around the age of five you’re shipped away for your body to be stored
They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores
And they predictin’ prison population by who scoring the lowest
And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me
And every day on evening news they feed you fear for free
And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
You’d think that this was written a few weeks ago about George Floyd, but the track was recorded in November 2019 with Eric Garner in mind. It’s haunting that this is about a situation that keeps on occurring but you just have to change the name of the person, especially since you hear something like this repeatedly in your adult life and wonder if it would happen to you.
In other topics, “JU$T” is all about how money and capitalism are the masters of your life, resulting in power and corruption. The production has a bouncy feel that you’d get from a Neptunes track and yes, Pharrell is on here but singing the hook. You also get Rage Against the Machine frontman and honorable 3rd member of RTJ, Zack de la Rocha with a verse as well.
I done had to have a talk with myself many times (For real)
Am I a hypocrite ’cause I know I did plenty crimes? (Yes, I’m is)
I get broke too many times, I might slang some dimes (Back to trappin’)
You believe corporations runnin’ marijuana? (How that happen? Ooh)
And your country gettin’ ran by a casino owner (Ooh)
Pedophiles sponsor all these fuckin’ racist bastards (They do)
And I told you once befo’ that you should kill your master (It’s true)
Now that’s the line that’s probably gon’ get my ass assassinated (Yeah-yeah, yeah)
The album (or all the RTJ albums) as a whole always comment on society and always manage to hit you somewhere and never comes off as overly preachy. The last track “A Few Words for the Firing Squad (Radiation)” has Killer Mike going on about his mother’s passing, how people talk like he’s going to be the next MLK or Malcolm X even though his wife needs him more and doesn’t want him to end up meeting their fates, and it ends by going back to Yankee and The Brave with the narration like an old western TV show. And yes, you hear A$AP Ferg shouting ‘Yankee and The Brave’.
You’ll get all that while also getting banger after banger after banger. The production has always kept that energetic vibe up to 100, and while El-P is the main producer here, there are others with him like Little Shailmar & Wilder Zoby. It’s the album that we all needed to hear right now in these turbulent times, and Killer Mike and El-P still continue to give us quality hip-hop.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy It. 4th time is definitely the charm for these guys.
RTJ4 is on their own imprint, Jewel Runners via RBC Records/BMG. It is available to download (for free on their site) and on streaming services. The physical version is coming soon in September and all proceeds will go to the Mass Defence Program.