Review Summary: Beggin' your pardon, Run the Jewels stinks like an armpit, darn it.
Run the Jewels is back to the pleasure of those teenage kids at Coachella who don't know who Outkast is. To everyone else, it's a major disappointment. This album is a tale of two formerly talented and original artists who couldn't help being poisoned by the most toxic election in modern US history. The result is a cringe-worthy album (even more so than the previous two cringe-inducing Run the Jewels albums) that too often panders to the lowest common denominator of listener with political cliches and corny bragger raps.
This album features remarkably stupid concepts and struggles to go 6 bars without being contradictory. On some tracks they paint the USA as if it were Nazi Germany, yet in support of this idea, the best evidence they have to offer is pointless whining about "All Lives Matter ass white folk." This couldn't be a more transparent attempt at wooing millennials who tend to blindly support Black Lives Matter and ironically spew hate towards people making reasonable objections to asinine BLM slogans and platitudes such as "what about everyone else? You aren't the center of the universe. Police are people too." This type of basic dialogue is what defines as "oppression" and "racism" in the minds of Killer Mike and his white-guilt-ridden side-cuck El-P, who clearly never actually read a single book about Nazi Germany, or perhaps any book ever.
Beyond that, there is some asinine rambling about why rioting is justified in response to ambiguous cases of African Americans being shot, almost always as they resist arrest or attack police officers. It thus ironically makes the problem worse by refusing to accept any blame for a two-sided problem that desperately requires good-will, forgiveness and unity. Basically this album's politics boil down to a string of rhyming tweets from Sean King. There is no attempt to engage with the other side or consider productive solutions, it's music for teenagers going through that phase where everyone is stupid except them.
The one consistent strength of the previous Run The Jewels albums has been the production, but that ends with this album. El-P has been a master of sampling in the past, but on this album his best sample comes from a robotic phone recording on "Carl Tickerton". This track excels with production by sampling the rap classic "It Takes Two", but nearly every other track falls flat and simply lacks the energy and originality of their previous albums.
Filler Mike stays true to his name and adds virtually nothing to this album except space and time. He drones on in autopilot or raps with his trademark unsettling tone of a paranoid crackhead frantically asking strangers for change. His style has regressed severely since his magnum opus R.A.P. Music
. His lyrics often sound like they were randomly chosen out of a hat: "Is anyone there and if aliens are here I'm askin' how near?" or a played-out Twitter joke: "Seen the Devil and Shaytan / he wore a bad toupee and a spray tan." He's not exceptionally bad, only average and forgettable, but given that he has been one of the top emcees in modern rap, his effort is nothing short of a disastrous disappointment.
El-P on the other hand is the only saving grace for this album. His flow on "Carl Tickerton" is smooth and buttery, and he delivers ultra-emotional tear-inducing lyrics on "Thursday in the Danger Room" only to have the track tarnished by Killer Mike's naive and simplistic ramblings about The Lord. El-P is consistent throughout the album, but his production has always been his strongpoint and it is simply lacking here, which takes away from his lyricism/flow which is some of the best of his entire career.
It is clear that Killer Mike's newfound fame as an "activist" has poisoned his music. Both artists once made abstract, anger-filled music about the government that was like reading a dystopian fiction book by George Orwell. Now they are much more blunt and crude, throwing around lame political statements that basically all boil down to "I don't give a fukk, break stuff!" They offer no solutions to any of the problems they whine about and just come across as arrogant college freshman who think they have the world figured out after getting their first real dose of education. This arrogance led them to believe that they could slide by with average production, but they were mistaken. In the end the album isn't terrible, but it's an astonishing disappointment from two artists who seem to have largely given up on evolving their music, and are content to make the same old sh1t for a crowd of young adults and teenagers that tend to barely be interested in hip hop at all, that they gained by spamming their previous albums for free on social media.