Review Summary: “everyone down, throw the pistol and fist…”
Gazing into the night sky, El-P and Killer Mike know they are needed as their symbol of pistol and fist is lighting up the night. With a quick glance at one another, they nod in recognition that world is ready for RTJ3, the third and possibly final installment to a trilogy of albums unlike the world has ever heard before. El-P, with his ability to shatter minds with his sonic beams and Killer Mike, with his destructive iron fist set on a path of justice, soar into the night once again, the unstoppable rhyme-fighting duo the hip-hop world desperately needs.
Our two champions first crossed paths when El-P was chosen to produce Mike’s record “R.A.P. Music.” They even made appearances on each other’s records, which so happened to release within a week of one another. Following that, they embarked on a tour together which began the greatest hip-hop duo this world has ever seen, and will likely ever see! Their partnership began by shaking the rap world at its core with their debut, and then RTJ2 left it in shambles. To top their efforts seemed insurmountable, but if anyone can conquer the task, its them.
I can’t think of a hip-hop record in recent memory that was anticipated this heavily, and it’s finally here. Instead of sliding down your staircase railing to sink your nails into wrapping paper, we found ourselves on Christmas morning instead opening our respective streaming apps to hear the new RTJ, which ended up being a great gift (better than anything I got). At this point, we’ve come to learn what to expect from the showstoppers, usually kicking down the front door within seconds of pressing play. Instead of getting an iconic banger or Killer Mike yelling in our ears (“you might wanna record the other way, you finna look at history being made”), we get a curveball with a tamer track entitled “Down.” El-P reminds other rappers listening “You’re gonna need a bigger boat boys, you’re in trouble,” and we prepare ourselves for what Killer Mike called “the greatest thing we have artistically done together.” Little patience is required because when the percussion hits on “Talk to Me” we know it’s on. We can picture a devilish smirk as we hear “RTJ 3 mother***ers.”
“I told you on RTJ1 and I told you again on RTJ2… So here we go, RTJ3!” Killer Mike yells out the speakers on “Talk to Me.” The conquers jump into battle with an unheard-of level of confidence. Previously, they’ve had some braggadocios moments, but none to compare with tracks such as “Panther Like a Panther,” where the chorus’ core is literally “I’m the ***, bitch!” But hey, they’ve come a long way and to be fair, they’ve earned their spot on the throne. Mike and El seem to have a pattern of slaughtering all competition in their field, leaving them barely enough time to recover before dropping another one.
The other side to the warriors is their opposition to the corrupt system which their sharp tongues wage war against. Killer Mike is commonly sharing his views in his music and in interviews. In 2016 he visually supported Bernie Sanders and opposed following Hillary Clinton when Sanders’ run was over. “Thieves!” is one of the many examples of their political side, ending with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which concludes “Riots are the language of the unheard,” a powerful statement which has been echoed by Mike previously. Whether their boasting or engaging their new nemesis Donald Trump (“Went to war with the devil and shaytan. He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan”), their lyrical genius is not up for debate, it’s a fact at this point.
If you’re familiar with El-P, you know his sonic abilities have stretched over two decades now, propelling several underground artists upwards such as Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock. He’s only improved in his artistry and this is perfectly clear on RTJ3, although he uses a strict formula since the first RTJ. This recipe includes tons of bangers with slapping percussion (“Legend Has It” possibly the biggest achievement of the RTJ trilogy, beat wise, “Stay Gold” which comes as close to Death Grips as he’ll ever get, and “Call Ticketron” a futurist polished version of “Banana Clip”), and he always throws in a few slower, deeper tracks (“2100”, “Don’t Get Captured”). Also, in respect for topping one’s self, instead of another Travis Barker feature, they bring in Kamasi Washington, a well-played move. This jazz-infused tune takes the record to new heights and exposes El-P’s genius mind for sonic craftsmanship, utilizing artists outside of the box. Then to top it off, the epic closer “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters” finishes on a high, with a surprise appearance from de la Rocha.
Where will our heroes go from here, it’s hard to tell. This might signal the end of the trilogy but most likely not the end of RTJ. After not reaching the acclaim of RTJ2 with RTJ3 the hope is they’ll explore new paths and hold down the throne with something more ambitious. Either way, the RTJ trilogy will live on as the best full-bodied example of hip-hop in the 2010’s. Because, hey, they’re “a good crew to *** with, better to love.”
Review Link: http://www.speak-sound.com/single-post/2017/01/09/Album-of-the-Week-RTJ3