A surprise release from Run The Jewels is the must unsurprising thing that could have happened at this rate. They’ve pulled this little novelty release for every record, and to release album number four in the middle this bat-shit crazy time is the most RTJ stunt the duo have pulled up to now. I wonder if they were always planning on surprise releasing the record around this time, or if they decided to drop it because the subject matter they rap about is so relevant to what is going on in America right now.
RTJ4 comes over three and a half years after Run The Jewels 3, which is a long gap considering their quick succession in putting out their first three records, but little has changed; they’re still rapping about corruption within the police in the US and there’s still the rapid fire hardcore production work. It’s energetic, it’s angry, it’s the prefect soundtrack for America in 2020.
Run The Jewels have been screaming about what is going on right now for the past six years, and Killer Mike has been doing it since he first started rapping. RTJ4 addresses the racism in America more than any other release and was insane to find out the lyrics had been written and recorded long before we reached the point of riots and George Floyd’s death. The refrain on the Pharrell featuring “JU$T,” is catchy as hell, as they all take turns rapping, “Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar.” And I‘m surprised it isn’t being chanted at every protest across America. I’ve never seen RTJ live but I can imagine this being performed live and the venue just getting completely torn apart. It’s one of the most adrenaline pumping, riotous songs I’ve ever heard.
The last track, “A Few Words For The Firing Squad (Radiation)” is a three part suite that starts with gut punching production with the rappers’ ferocious lyricism, the moves in to a winding down instrumental, and finally blows up one last time with a remixed theme of Yankee And The Brave. It’s almost like rap’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It is the best song either Killer Mike or El-P have ever been a part of. It’s the culmination of the chaos of the last few weeks and the anger we’ve been listening to for the last 35 minutes. Also, if anybody wants to tell me what Yankee And The Brave is that’d be great. Is it a TV show? It sounds like the intro to a 60s crime show. Not a clue.
RTJ4 is the duo’s best album. Sure, Run The Jewels 2 might have some of the most memorable tracks, but start to finish this album is thrilling. This might be my favourite of theirs due only to the fact that it’s the least corny of them all. However, this is RTJ we’re talking about and there’s always gonna be a dollop of cringe. El-P’s delivery has always been corny, as he talk-raps while trying to be provocative. And there’s still some questionable bars. The opening line of the record from Killer Mike, “back at it like a crack addict,” is a bit strange, especially considering how most of the album’s subject matter is so serious and not to be taken lightly.
It might just be the state of the US, the immaculate timing of the release, and the pure energy and anger from start to finish. But I am living in this album all day. The duo work with each other so well that at this point, why would anybody want a solo record from either of them? Something would feel missing, they have an energy together that neither of them reach on their own.
Just a note… As great of a package as this record is, it’d be nice if they changed up the artwork, or released a record that wasn’t self titled, all this stuff got old by Run The Jewels 3. And not only RTJ, but all musicians need to stop naming their songs all lowercase or all uppercase, or whatever; The aesthetic is old, and it isn’t interesting if everyone is doing the same thing.