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Album Review: RTJ4 by Run The Jewels

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Run The Jewels is a hip hop duo consisting of Killer Mike and El-P. Both artists have been highly successful and been in the music industry for quite some time. In 2013, they came out with their first self-titled album and in 2014, they came out with their second self-titled album. Both albums received great reviews and they have only been gaining popularity since. Originally scheduled for this Friday (June 5), they decided to drop RTJ4 a few days earlier.

The first track off the album is yankee and the brave (ep. 4). It is a fictional television show that portrays the baseball teams from where they live. El-P lives in NYC which has the New York Yankees, and Killer Mike lives in Atlanta which has the Atlanta Braves. After the opening line of the track, an intense percussive backdrop comes in which shows you the intensity of the track from the get-go. Killer Mike and El-P trade verses back and forth and really show us that the album was worth the wait.

The second track from the album and the second single is ooh la la. The main chorus of the track actually takes a sample from the track DWYCK by Gang Starr. Just like on their third record, El-P references his rapping like by a type of gun, the Kalashnikov. Killer Mike also references Ol' Dirty Bastard from Wu-Tang Clan during the second verse. When talking about this track with GQ, they said that they like using their powers (music) for good.

After that, we have out of sight that features 2 Chainz. The beat is quite different than the previous two on the album. Besides the percussive beats in the background, you can hear a guitar and bass, as well as chopped up voices in the background. The high pitched voices seem reminiscent of stuff on their previous records, especially Run The Jewels 2.

holy calamafuck starts out with some inaudible voice. After that, it gets back into the deep hitting bass and beat. About halfway through, the beat cuts off and goes into a second part, with more inaudible voices. The second part sounds more like an electronic siren going off. After that, it is toned back in instrumentals quite a bit. A lot of this track talks about the issues they have been seeing in the country and their political stances.

goonies vs. E.T. starts off with El-P's voice masked with a deep voice effect. In the background, you can hear a bass repeating the same note throughout the track. On the second verse of the track, Killer Mike talks about the "woke" culture that is usually present in social media. He talks about how they talk about being woke on Twitter, but they are no better than the cable news stations. He also mentions the Gil Scott-Heron track, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

walking in the snow brings back the deep bass guitar at the beginning, then a loud noise of brass instruments come in for the first fifteen seconds of the track. This track talks a lot about the current issues that are present today, especially police brutality. Killer Mike mentioned the words, "I can't breathe", which was said by George Floyd. The strange thing is that this track was recorded back in 2019, according to the group.

JU$T brings back Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine, as well as Pharrell Williams. They talk about the injustices in society. Even though the thirteenth amendment made slavery illegal, they talk about how the people on American currency owned slaves at one point. You can also interpret it as how large corporations source out their items in other countries where people face unethical working conditions.

never look back opens up with an electronic type beat. This is one of the few tracks I am not a fan of on the album, the beat just doesn't mesh well with their rapping. The electronic beat gets old as it is repeated for the entire track. However, on this track, they talk about not looking back at your past and keep moving forward. Over time, things change and they realize that things aren't the same as they used to be when they were growing up.

On the ground below, Killer Mike and El-P are rapping over a rock type beat that is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s. At the end of the track, they talk about sticking to your roots and ideals, no matter who you are. Even if you end up losing, you should keep your head high and move on.

pulling the pin is another electronic like track from the album. El-P slows down his flow for this track, but Killer Mike does the opposite. Also, they recruit Mavis Staples, a blues and gospel singer, for this track. She talks about how there is a grenade in her heart and the pin is in their palm. This could be a reference to the injustice and how she's being torn apart from everything happening in the world right now.

The last track and longest track on the album is a few words for the firing squad. It starts with a bass guitar at the beginning going through a basic chord progression while El-P raps over it. Eventually, the saxophone comes in during the first verse. Killer Mike talks a lot about being black in America as well as the death of his mother. Towards the last few minutes of the track, you have an instrumental break with the current instruments that have been introduced. The end of the track switches up the beat to show the ending of the fictional television show, Yankee and the Brave.

This album definitely exceeded my expectations. Going into this album, I wasn't sure what to expect, especially since I wasn't a huge fan of their third album. However, after going through this album in full, I know that they are still able to produce an amazing and high powered record.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Favorite Tracks: yankee and the brave (ep. 4), ooh la la, JU$T, a few words for the firing squad

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