Run the Jewels has fascinated me for a while now. I was late to the game as most Hip Hop over the last twenty years has been mediocre at best, but RTJ changed that. Being of political mind, I’ve been a fan of Killer Mike for the better part of a decade, but never gave his music a listen. A few years back I gave Run the Jewels 3 a chance and never looked back. RTJ4 though is a whole other ball game.
The world and U.S. being in the state its in, RTJ4 came at the perfect time, in fact it came a few days early and for free. Killer Mike and El-P open with Yankee and the Brave. A play on the baseball teams of their hometowns that also demonstrates the north/south diversity of the duo’s collaboration.
The lyrics are political from the get-go. The first track seems to be taken from inside the mind of Christopher Dorner. Dorner was a former cop turned cop killer who when surrounded by police chose to shoot himself. Killer Mike argues it still wasn’t suicide.
One of my favorite tracks on the album still has to be the first single; Ooh La La (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier). This song was catchy from the start and brought me back to a time when Hip Hop was really special. Great lyrics, great beats, great sampling (Gang Starr & Biz Markie), and Premier scratching.
Goonies vs. E.T. caught my Gen X attention just for the title. The fact is the song is hard, in your face and so are the lyrics. Killer Mike: “Now I understand that woke folk be playin’. Ain’t no revolution that’s televised and digitized. You’ve been hypnotized and Twitter-ized by silly guys. Cues to the evenin’ news, make sure you ill-advised”
As far as present-day relevance goes, nothing hits harder than “Walking Through the Snow.” The song about police brutality was originally written with Eric Garner in mind, but it can easily be about George Floyd as well.
One of the best lines on the album can be heard on JU$T (feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha). I found the song a little cringe worthy at first with a few lines of mumble rapping, but I got passed it. Zack de la Rocha and the chorus made up for it: “Look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar.” Five presidents currently depicted on U.S. currency were slave owners.
Run the Jewels ends all their albums with their longest tracks. They are laid back, almost operatic as far as hip hop goes, and often personal. RTJ4 is no different. “A Few Words for the Firing Squad” is a retrospection on the duo’s career. A remarkable end a fantastic album.
RTJ4 will be one of those albums frozen in time. A near masterpiece people will remember when reflecting on these times. It reminds me a little of System of a Down releasing Toxicity a week before 9/11. A modern protest classic.
For someone who grew up on 80s and 90s Hip Hop, but saw little good afterward, this album kicked my ass. It has elements of the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy & N.W.A. You can tell Killer Mike and El-P had a great time recording it and it will rub off on everyone. RTJ4 debuted at #10 on Billboard.