Review Summary: A timely release from the fun-loving Atlanta and Brooklyn-based duo, Killer Mike and L.P. - appear true to form, with their fourth release leaving little to the imagination and nothing on the table.
In a genre plagued with superfluousness and unoriginality, RTJ returns with their fourth album with lots to say and a style that is hard to confuse with any other group. Playing on the idea of “Yankee and the Brave” being a TV show serving as the medium for which to deliver their not-so-subtle take on the state of America, Killer Mike and L.P. stay true to form in delivering another unapologetically high energy, hard-hitting rap record that balances the tongue-in-cheek with the solemnity that their listeners have grown to expect.
Killer Mike is back in full force with his head-bobbing, god-like flow and clever lyricism that leaves the listener grinning continuously, while also rapping candidly about his struggles of growing up as a minority in Atlanta, the toll that took on his family, and how it shaped his upbringing. Delivering powerful verse after verse, Killer Mike proves to be the definitive highlight throughout.
Despite sounding significantly more stilted in his rhythm and occasionally wooden lyrical contribution next to Killer Mike, L.P. is a pleasure to listen to and with frequent witty references, really shining in particular segments - such as the white-knuckle build-up to the beat-drop in “A Few Words for the Firing Squad”. Further, he once again showcases his talent as a producer and, in collaboration with several others, furnishes the record with gut punching beats and numerous samples that are so accurately reflective of the group’s attitude and personality.
The duo do little to veil their political and philosophical positions that comprise the overarching themes of the album. Those who traditionally enjoy sifting through pieces of the abstract in effort to discover deeper need not look here, with RTJ’s balance of humour and bluntness certainly the charm of their performance. All-too-relevant lyrics such as “Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar” or the chilling “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’, 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” leave little room for interpretation, and few (if any) lyrical content on the album requires one to read between the lines, but rather postulate responsibility on behalf of the listener and call for ownership to act. Despite the often heavy-subject matter, RTJ doesn’t take itself too seriously and finds relief both in the playful production, humorous and sometimes self-deprecating lines, while refreshingly straying from many of the exhausted topics typical of the genre.
However, despite the powerful lyricism, delivery, production, and unique hooks, the songs do tend to fall victim to blending in to one another in a repetitiveness of tone and sound. However, numerous features including 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, and another appearance from Zack de la Rocha, do provide relief and variation from the occasional monotony. And although it has been since 2016 that the world last received an RTJ album, its hard to feel as though some tracks or hooks were a tad rushed in their creation.
Overall, its hard to picture the duo not having fun during the recording sessions of RTJ4, and thus the listener is left with an equally enjoyable and contagiously fun end product that packs both a powerful message and a punch. So do yourself a favour, check this one and see for yourself how challenging it is to not to smile and bob your head.