Run the Jewels - RTJ4
Jun 3, 2020 (updated Jun 3, 2020)
97
If you told anyone this album was recorded this weekend in the wake of chaos that has swept over America, it would make so much sense to everyone. Instead, Killer Mike and El-P appear to be clairvoyant in their ability to speak to the political climate of our current conversations far before everything going on in the country. If this ultimately surprises you, it shouldn't; as many have been screaming, this isn't a new issue, it's merely a fresh issue in our minds.

Often I find that El-P brings the most potent performances across an RTJ album, but RTJ4 is Killer Mike's most impressive album of his entire career. He slays consistently with biting and ballistic lyricism at society - a position he has been in for years in politics. An outspoken orator, Killer Mike brings his best on this album and overshadows any other element across this record. Songs tackle difficult topics from gun violence to racist police, even money. It is impactful, essential, and timely. It couldn't be more pressing than it is today.

This isn't to say that the production isn't perfect, because it is. El-P has been the most consistent hip-hop producer for more than two decades, whether that be in his current limelight or on his underground work. The beats and varied instrumentation make for the most eclectic yet electric Run the Jewels album yet, with a mixture of stadium-level explosions and focused and slowly paced moments, like the triumphant closer, a few words for the firing squad (radiation). El-P brings his best, and the production pairs with both vocalists in the most pristine possible manner.

Less than a decade ago it would have seemed like Killer Mike and El-P would be a confusing pairing. Killer Mike and El-P have always had different styles in their solo work, but they come together and make absolute magic every time they step in the studio together. This is arguably their best work, not only for its timeliness but also its level of talent, only possible after years of collaboration and consideration; chemistry absolutely bubbling over from track to track.

The featured artists also bring their best on this record. Only on a Run the Jewels record could you see Pharrell Williams feeling at home on a track with Rage vocalist Zack de la Rocha, but JU$T is an absolute masterclass banger. 2 Chainz impresses on out of site, and the pairing of Joshua Homme and Mavis Staples creates a wonderful contrast. ooh la la originally didn't feel like an impressive collaboration, but DJ Premier creates explosive beats while Greg Nice provides a strange but successful hook.

Run the Jewels obviously knew how important this album was to the world around them, especially in America. Dropping this album early is a perfectionist statement that these issues aren't waiting, they are pressing and must be addressed. Killer Mike and El-P are the voices of hip hop today in my mind, and today they became the voices of an entire country with their bombastic album.

Favorite track: JU$T

Edit: for an article about the political end of this album, check out this article from my website.

https://www.recordroundtable.com/featured-articles/run-the-jewels-timing-is-everything
1 Comment
Jun 3, 2020
Brilliant review :)
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