Equal parts red-hot fire and cold hard reality, Killer Mike and El-P’s third album as Run The Jewels is a muscular call to arms.
RTJ3 is an excellent bookend to 2016, but it’s best used as a guide to the future, 2017 and beyond.
Run the Jewels 3 is a rap armoury for hard times, a hip-hop bullhorn that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
Furious and hungry -- with endlessly quotable lyrical zingers to spare -- RTJ3's potency isn't as immediate as RTJ2. However, once it digs its claws in, RTJ3 reveals itself as their best work to date.
Nobody fresh out of the blocks could ever make a record this vital sound quite so effortless.
RTJ3 is essentially the Run the Jewels manifesto, an outpouring of rage and defiance that never loses sight of the objectives: rallying the troops, holding all accountable, and toppling oppression.
Mike and El-P are on the top of their game throughout RTJ3, tag-teaming seamlessly like Kanye and Jay(-)Z on “Otis” or Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt on “AssMilk” – they hit verses back and forth as smoothly as a ball in a table tennis rally.
I also think it’s better than the first or second installments: slightly more ambitious and slightly more layered.
The blessing and the curse of Run the Jewels 3 is that it’s still a Run the Jewels album, a promise that every song is good, nothing is bad, and depending on your mood you’ll either bask in the lack of tempo changes, pulchritudinous song structures, and surprising hooks, or you’ll seek out a more colorful record.
RTJ3 can safely, accurately, and comprehensively be described as “a third Run The Jewels album.” This is a good thing. The albums are differentiated from each other not by vast stylistic shifts but by highlights—a verse or a punchline or a particularly terse beat, all of which are present here.
RTJ 3 is both a sprinter’s dip and a victory lap – it is neither as sinewy as RTJ 1 nor as effusively vivacious as 2014’s RTJ 2, but still finds itself imbibed with the kind of assured professionalism that is only permitted to those who have previously done enough to be granted a low-pressure outing.
Run the Jewels can still detonate rhymes like a Molotov cocktail lobbed into a CVS, but now they're strategizing for the long war ahead.
This album is full of bangers and achieves what so many hip-hop heads, old and new, are longing for: music with a message, loud and clear.
RTJ3 ultimately mirrors the sentiment of too many movie franchise sequels that make the brand go stale.
Thankfully there’s enough gold at hand to excuse Run The Jewels for getting a little bit carried away with their own runaway success.
For the most part, Run the Jewels 3 is not intent on breaking new ground but rather on cementing the fruitful dynamic between El-P and Killer Mike.