RTJ4

Run The Jewels

RTJ4

Released in June 2020 as American cities were rupturing in response to police brutality, the fourth album by rap duo Run The Jewels uses the righteous indignation of hip-hop's past to confront a combustible present. Returning with a meaner boom and pound than ever before, rappers Killer Mike and EL-P speak venom to power, taking aim at killer cops, warmongers, the surveillance state, the prison-industrial complex, and the rungs of modern capitalism. The duo has always been loyal to hip-hop's core tenets while forging its noisy cutting edge, but RTJ4 is especially lithe in a way that should appeal to vintage heads—full of hyperkinetic braggadocio and beats that sound like sci-fi remakes of Public Enemy's Apocalypse 91. Until the final two tracks there's no turn-down, no mercy, and nothing that sounds like any rap being made today. The only guest hook comes from Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples on "pulling the pin," a reflective song that connects the depression prevalent in modern rap to the structural forces that cause it.
Until then, it’s all a tires-squealing, middle-fingers-blazing rhymefest. Single "ooh la la" flips Nice & Smooth's Greg Nice from the 1992 Gang Starr classic "DWYCK" into a stomp closed out by a DJ Premier scratch solo. "out of sight" rewrites the groove of The D.O.C.'s 1989 hit "It's Funky Enough" until it treadmills sideways, and guest 2 Chainz spits like he just went on a Big Daddy Kane bender. A churning sample from lefty post-punks Gang of Four ("the ground below") is perfectly on the nose for an album brimming with funk and fury, as is the unexpected team-up between Pharrell and Zack de la Rocha ("JU$T"). Most significant, however, is "walking in the snow," where Mike lays out a visceral rumination on police violence: "And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me/Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, 'I can't breathe.'"

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