Run The Jewels - RTJ4 Album Review
By Cameron Cade
Hardcore Rap duo Run The Jewels dropped their new album RTJ4, two days ahead of schedule. The timing of this drop is well appreciated by many people, with the Black Lives Matter protests occurring worldwide, a group like Run The Jewels famous for their “no-nonsense” aggression in their music is really needed right now. Not only is the timing of this album perfect, but it is also a total and unstoppable force of joy. Run The Jewels’ El-P and Killer Mike have created the best album under the Run The Jewels name with this one.
The album has an undeniable bounce to it that is present in almost all of the 11 songs on the tracklist. The second single from the album ‘ooh la la’ exemplifies this bounce the most with a Wu-Tang style instrumental that I despised when I first heard it isolated from the album, but has grown on me and is unbelievably infectious.
This bounce is not exclusively in a hip-hop style. Killer Mike and EL-P are known for their metal and rock influences which are on full show in ‘the ground below’. This song, like many of the others, shows the insane talents of the duo both lyrically and in their vocal performances. Their flow is consistently varied and skilful and is a perfect complement to the instrumentals that on some of their older albums often felt like they’re battling the duo's performances.
The features are another highlight of this album. However, one stands above the rest for me. Do you know that feeling when you’re watching one of your favourite movies and your favourite moment is about to happen; those chills you feel leading up to it and the absolute joy you feel during that unforgettable movie moment? That is how I feel every time I listen to ‘JU$T’ and Zack De La Rocha’s venomous, spite-filled voice comes through screaming “look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar”. It repeatedly comes through the track at the end of the chorus as if it’s a warning, building up to the phenomenal verse he has to close the track that oozes anger and aggression.
Lyrically, the album elevates the duo far above their previous works avoiding the issues of their previous albums where they were on the verge of lyrically spiking the lens, so to speak. Where their overt political discussions in songs felt cheesy like a bad pop-punk song at points instead of poignant as it does in this album. However, it doesn’t always feel as though their lyrics are focused. Often the most important lyrics of a song are surrounded by lyrics that feel entirely separate from them. This is to be expected with Run The Jewels braggadocios style and prevalent machismo.
RTJ4 is the best of Run The Jewels discography, consistently enjoyable, constantly aggressive and always a phenomenal listen. Although I have some issues with the focus of the album not always being there lyrically; the lyrics are generally smart, witty and powerful. Most of all, we need more of this aggressive and unapologetic music to help us through these uncertain times.