Hip-Hop’s outspoken duo is ready to be heard once again
Killer Mike’s first words, “Back at it like a crack addict,” is the perfect way to start off Run the Jewel’s fourth album, RTJ4. Now their fourth LP and major label release through BMG, the duo, consisting of Killer Mike and El-P, continues their eclectic production and political word play seven years after their debut release. RTJ4 was set to release June 5th but was given to the public free on their website, as they have previously done, two days earlier. The reason for the early release was the current state of the country, specifically, police brutality and the murder of George Floyd and countless others. In a note to their fans via social media, the duo said, “Fuck it, why wait? The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.” The album reflects on the realities of the country and a wake-up call for everyone listening.
The album’s opener, “yankee and the brave (ep. 4),” introduces us to a heavy drum pattern over the call-and-response verses from the two. “ooh la la” brings in hip hop legends Greg Nice and DJ Premier with El-P on the production, making a track that lovers of East Coast rap can appreciate. “holy calamafuck” features identity statements from each with a beat switch midway, allowing them to boast about the skills they possess. The stand-out track, “walking in the snow,” kicks off with a heavy electric guitar from Little Shalimar and transitions into this eerie complicated beat. Over this are verses from the duo that center around different social issues but focus on police brutality. Killer Mike not only calls out the system but also the everyday people who watch these tragedies occur by rapping: “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.”
The sixth track, “JU$T,” features Pharrell and Zack de la Rocha and continues the conversation on the social issues, this time on the concept of what freedom really is. Over the minimalistic bouncy beat reminiscent of Pharrell’s time with the Neptunes, the phrase, “look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar,” echoes as they challenge the concept of capitalism and how it affects everyone. The LP ends with “a few words for the firing squad (radiation),” which is a very fitting title. El-P and Killer Mike look back at how far they’ve come and how they will move forward. The less eccentric beat features a saxophone that carries the words and song forward so people solely focus on the lyrics. By the end of the track, words from Matt Sweeney appear as he repeats “Yankee and the Brave,” taking the album back full circle.
It seems like signing to a major label hasn’t stopped RTJ from allowing their political statements from shining through their music. At a time like this, where the world is in need of someone to speak the words people can’t say for themselves, RTJ4 provides people with such help. While fans do have to wait until September for physical releases, the LP is so enthralling that the wait time will seem obsolete and copies will be in their hands before they know it.