Review Summary: We a good crew to fuck with; better to love.
The third release in a simultaneously fresh yet familiar series kicks off with Killer Mike ruminating, “I hope with the highest of hopes/That I never have to go back to the trap and my days of dealing with dope
”. That opening verse speaks at once to the quintessential Cheshire Cat spirit of his collaboration with El-P while tacitly acknowledging that the entire project has ended up being far, far more successful than either of them had ever imagined. Accordingly, RTJ 3
is both a sprinter’s dip and a victory lap – it is neither as sinewy as RTJ 1
nor as effusively vivacious as 2014’s RTJ 2
, but still finds itself imbibed with the kind of assured professionalism that is only permitted to those who have previously done enough to be granted a low-pressure outing. Any wolves looking to take a cheap shot might immediately seize upon this as proof positive that the two MCs have finally lost their fire, but the more accurate assessment would be to recognize that Killer Mike and El-P have reached the point where even diminished returns are worthy of celebration.
As tradition would have it, the pair’s poetry remains bold and bizarre, with wondrous lines that variously zing and titillate. There’s “Brave men didn’t die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you
”; or "Ballot or bullet – you better use one
." Elsewhere, slipping in “Can’t stand the scope in the booth I disrobe like pederast popes on a play date/Better call mayday
," must have given even the famously ice-cool El-P a grin. But what really gets the pair’s cylinders firing in these gilded times is the opportunity to trade in their trademark good humor alongside their contemporaries – like in the Miracle Mix of “Panther Like a Panther”, which features Trina enthusiastically sounding calls for the pistol and fist salute, or the spectacularly produced "Thursday in the Danger Room", which lives and dies by a shifting, emotionless Kamasi Washington hook. Album closer "Kill Your Masters" with Zack de la Rocha is a failed bid at rescaling the dizzying heights of “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fu
ck)” but still manages to end on a poignant note, as the former Rage Against The Machine vocalist signs off the record with a parting shot that could just as easily serve as an epitaph someday: “Man, the world gonna ride on what’s implied in the name; run’ em