Album review: RTJ 4 by Run The Jewels

Tom Moorcroft reviews the latest album from rap duo Run The Jewels

Tom Moorcroft
15th June 2020
In the fourth installment of their Run The Jewels series, super-group duo Killer Mike and El-P have outdone themselves with one of their greatest collaborative efforts yet.

The album, which was released a couple days early, has received critical acclaim, with many fans deeming it their best yet.

It’s been released at a time where many will be seeking the intricate wisdom of activist Killer Mike, as tensions within America are higher than ever.
They posted this message two days prior to the album's predicted release

I happened to stumble upon the group after listening to Killer Mike’s powerful speech a few weeks ago, speaking on the issues of systemic racism in the US in light of the George Floyd murder. I couldn’t turn it off, as I was mesmerised by his passion. 

In listening to this speech, he has the same poetic attitude towards his craft, leaving me in a hypnotic trance where I had to listen to the entire album in one sitting. A prime example of this would be his verse on the track ‘walking in the snow’. One of the lines included: “And ‘til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe’”, has brought parallels with the last words of George Floyd. 

However, Killer Mike has confirmed that the verse was created in November 2019, originally in reference to the dying words of Eric Garner in 2014, who was also murdered by police via compression of the neck. The verse itself reflects the current political climate in the US, highlighting the institutionalised racism hidden within governmental bodies.

The beauty of this album, alongside the diverse yet heavy melodies, would be the fluidity when moving from song to song. Funnily enough, when I first listened to ‘Ooh LA LA’, I didn’t realise I had it on repeat, and actually listened to it a couple times! The nature in which the songs don’t fade or die, but are reborn into other tracks, makes this album transition from music to an experience.

Like any experience, there are moments of melancholy, of excitement, of happiness and of tenacity which Killer Mike and El-P produce. They’re two of the most in-sync musicians I’ve ever seen perform together, with Mike and Jaime's verses equally powerful and raw as they are playful and comedic.

Some of the stand out tracks on the album, alongside the aforementioned ‘Ooh LA LA’, would be ‘JU$T’, with it’s powerful message echoed by Pharrell’s lyricism and the all out passion of RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha. The song reflects on the 13th amendment, and the contradiction in that most currency used in the US still promotes men who owned slaves. It later goes on to discuss the slavery aspects of the modern prison system.

This was also referred to in another Killer Mike track, ‘Reagan’, in which he states: “Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison”.

Whilst thinking about features, this album has some of the most creative outlets on the music scene. Alongside the previously mentioned Williams and Rocha, they’ve got Queens of the Stone Age’s own Josh Homme providing backing vocals and gruelling guitar on ‘pulling the pin’, accompanied by the soulful melodies of Mavis Staples.

It’s an outstanding album, warranting all the praise in which it’s received, and provides a welcome introduction to their fully-loaded discography.

While releasing the album for free via digital download, RTJ are encouraging fans to make a donation to the Mass Defense Program, which provides political activists and protesters with lawyers, legal workers and law students.

Run The Jewels are a duo which, now more than ever, need to be heard.

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AUTHOR: Tom Moorcroft
Head of Sport for The Courier. Current 3rd year English Literature and History student. Love writing about sports/music, playing the guitar and Everton FC!

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