Run the Jewels
RTJ4


5.0
classic

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
June 4th, 2020 | 1010 replies


Release Date: 06/03/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I am in love with you. It's my only grace.

Today, my coworkers and I watched as Black Lives Matter protestors marched past the windows of our place of employment. They gathered in a large circle by the lake’s edge, holding up signs and chanting the phrases that the country has been listening to but not hearing for several years, recontextualized from decades-old movements that were never able to achieve a true and lasting equality. Some of the people I work with were anxious, urging us to be careful if we had to go outside. Others, still clocked in, stepped out the door to get closer, maybe to see if something bad would happen, maybe to feel some of the energy palpable even in a relatively small gathering. The pull to join the circle was magnetic, but there were reasons to stay back. I hadn’t clocked out. We were understaffed and swamped with work. And the group was clearly gearing up to move on to a different location. How could I follow them when I was supposed to be at work?

Instead, I stayed late and listened to RTJ4. The magic of their music is that you feel like a part of something bigger than yourself, like you can overcome your own cowardice or at least admit to its existence deep within. Protests spring from pain but not a universal pain. Joining or supporting a movement requires a combination of empathy and courage, the same mixture present on every Run the Jewels album, bolstered by multi-faceted crystalline beats – alternately droning and driving and dirge-like – and lyrics that illustrate the world’s ills that we know but can’t change even as some die trying. While the New York Times editorial board tries to convince us that protestors reveal what’s great about America (aren’t they trying to reveal the opposite?), RTJ remind us about our real enemies, the holders of capital (slave-masters, in their estimation, and it’s hard to argue) whose property is protected by the police, even the ones who kneel. Especially the ones who kneel then wake up the next day still carrying the symbols of a coercive and crushing power imbalance.

El-P’s beats sound like they were rolled in breading and dropped into a fryer, the intense heat of chemical reactions bubbling to the surface and scalding those who get too close. His rhymes are consistently excellent as they have always been, but in a time like this, Killer Mike dominates the album’s stage, full of rage, depression, and desperation, but never fear, even as he simulates a rasping, choking death at the hands of police. As is typical on Run the Jewels albums, every feature is perfectly placed, but the inclusion of Mavis Staples and Josh Homme may be El-P’s finest production moment yet. Homme’s ghostly wailing and questing guitar provide a backdrop for Staples to sing an image that perfectly distills not only RTJ’s oeuvre but the bloody centuries of America’s history: “There’s a grenade in my heart, and the pin is in their palm.”

I hope a coward can find his courage by admitting his cowardice. Listening to RTJ4, I feel like I know my place within the movement and that I let it pass me by, all the while staring at the outstretched hands and crying voices. May bravery find its root in me and metastasize.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
June 4th 2020


19895 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fantastic fucking review, that frame is top-tier



and wait, fucking Josh Homme is on this????

DopeFiend
June 4th 2020


464 Comments


Queens and RTJ toured together I wanna say last year or the year before

Satellite
June 4th 2020


26442 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It took 2 listens for me to decide that no rating lower than 5 would do this justice. Mike's verse in "walking in the snow" is soul-crushingly prescient.

Stellar review, Chan.

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YoYoMancuso
June 4th 2020


12816 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Walking in the Snow sounds so primal. like a star exploding. this album blew me away

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2020


35274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

'pulling the pin' and 'a few words for the firing squad' is such an amazing 1-2 punch to end on

Digging: The Microphones - Microphones in 2020

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 4th 2020


35274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

When did they write the lyrics for 'walking in the snow'?



And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me

And 'til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, "I can't breathe"

And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV

The most you give's a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy


Satellite
June 4th 2020


26442 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It was recorded last fall according to El-P, so presumably last year sometime.

https://twitter.com/therealelp/status/1268224780102176768

MotokoKusanagi
June 4th 2020


3227 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pretty sure that bit was relating to Eric Garner, but obviously very relevant right now

deathschool
June 4th 2020


25793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don’t believe that rating for a second.

Satellite
June 4th 2020


26442 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, it was definitely a nod to Garner, whose last words while being suffocated/murdered by cops were also "I can't breathe."

evilford
June 4th 2020


44861 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great rev I can get behind this

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Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 4th 2020


9994 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Brilliant write up



Probably just gonna say fuck it and 5 this any second, it's something else

Digging: Stormlight - Natoma

Scoot
June 4th 2020


19986 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

part of me thought they'd drop the art and just release a black square in its place



holy calamafuck is the early standout for me



best rap album since tpab

bloodshy
June 4th 2020


1356 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. I had no idea this was dropping. Anxious to hear it.

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mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2020


1701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The beat switch in holy calamafuck is so good

Kompys2000
June 4th 2020


4326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Phenomenal review as always chan, this album left me a bit cold but I'm letting it sit and giving a few relistens before rating

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
June 4th 2020


20562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review Chan, feels even heavier reading it in the context we are now. I can't call myself a RTJ fan but I'll give this a check.



There's also a track with Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha?

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Scoot
June 4th 2020


19986 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

and another with josh homme



features absolutely kill it on this one, they pulled out all the stops



2 chainz best verse since rodeo

ian b
June 4th 2020


919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

okay this is the album that's gonna fully sell these guys to me. this shit is on another level

highandtight
June 4th 2020


179 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

the album itself 100% justifies the timing of its release. one for the ages.



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