Firstly, I wanted to reiterate that Black Lives Matter. What’s been happening in the US for the past two weeks or so has been as a result of centuries of oppression and institutional racism and unfortunately it is still rampant across the country. Protests in the UK, France, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and throughout the world show that the issue of institutional racism still exists throughout the world. Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike lives through this as a black man and knows all to well Black pain and struggle. He’s been vocal for decades about the issues surrounding police brutality, systemic racism and capitalism throughout America, and his music is a deep reflection of that. Underground hip-hop legend El-P has joined him on the journey since 2012/2013, and together as Run The Jewels have become one of the most critically acclaimed rap duos of the last decade. Amidst all this madness happening throughout the United States and now on a global scale, they have released their highly anticipated fourth studio album Run The Jewels 4, and it’s actually a perfect time to drop it.
For those who are familiar with El-P’s production, you would know that his production tends to be loud and abrasive, bringing thumping basslines and piercing synths throughout. This album continues that sound and amplifies it to the fullest, providing himself and Killer Mike with an dynamic, vicious soundscape for them to speak their truth of the injustices in the world. “yankee and the brave (ep.4)” is an explosive start with a heavy beat and menacing energy that sets the tone on the album. El-P goes off, stating “Scammer bliss when you puttin’ villains in charge of shit / All of us targeted, all we doin’ is arguin’ / Part of them isn’t workin’ ’til every pocket’s been picked and sold and harvested.” I’m all here for calling politicians and police villains, as he criticises the current capitalist system for stealing, gentrifying and returning money back to the rich. Killer Mike doesn’t hold back either, stating “I got one round left, a hunnid cops outside / I could shoot at them or put one between my eyes / Chose the latter, it don’t matter, it ain’t suicide / And if the news say it was that’s a goddamn lie / I can’t let the pigs kill me, I got too much pride / And I meant it when I said it, never take me alive.” This is the energy they’ve gone with throughout the entire project, and it’s incredible to see them both reach new heights as musicians. “ooh la la” ft Greg Nice & DJ Premier is excellent too. The lead single and Ozark Season 3 closer brings a punchy, boom-bap sound. El-P highlights issues of corruption within the government saying they’re up up something disgusting. “out of sight” ft 2 Chainz is probably my favourite track on the entire album. The intricate, choppy beat and is crazy and both El-P and Killer Mike flow effortlessly throughout the track. 2 Chainz’s verse is fantastic too. “holy calamafuck” is another excellent track with two parts, as El-P states “You hate Run The Jewels, you don’t love the troops / You miss the point tryna act like shit’s cool,” criticising people’s love for troops and the militarisation of the army and police throughout the country. It’s so relevant in todays socio-political landscape and highlights a deep issue of American identity. On “goonies vs. E.T.” Killer Mike goes off by saying “Got you celebratin’ the generators of genocide / Any good deed is pummeled, punished and penalized / Rulers of the world will slice it up like a dinner pie / Race in a nation told you to identify / People take false pride and warfare incentivized / Fuck that, me and my tribe we on an iller vibe / We accept the role of the villains ’cause we been villainized.” The way Killer Mike is able to communicate his rage on record is poignant. Even when his tone is more mellow, such as on “never look back,” he still sounds menacing and piercing in his delivery, riding the beat perfectly. “pulling the pin” featuring Mavis Staples and Josh Homme contains one of Killer Mike’s more personal and fiery verses. He opens up with “At best I feel difficult, poor and you pitiful / Then every day’s like a satanic ritual / Beautiful soul with the rogue and the criminal / How long must the holy hold onto they principles?” The contrast between the beauty and soul Black people have every single day is contrasted by the ugly reality they live in. It’s a truly awful image to hold and Killer Mike faces that reality every day in America. Run The Jewels always have emphatic, long closers and “a few words for the firing quad (radiation)” is as grandiose as I expected it to be. Killer Mike speaks from the heart, saying “Black child in America, the fact that I made it was magic / Black and beautiful, the world broke my mama heart, and she died an addict / God blessed me to redeem her in my thoughts, words, and my actions / Satisfaction for The Devil, goddammit, he’ll never ever have it.” The inner power and strength Killer Mike has had growing up is still strong and inspiring, despite all the hardships he has faced. As much as The Devil wants Black people to suffer, Killer Mike and I’m sure everyone would never want to give him the satisfaction of winning, giving a sense of optimism despite the horrors they face on a daily basis.
There’s still so much I could say about this album and the different records throughout, but I’m going to let the music do the talking. It’s a raw, pro-Black and anti-establishment album that fires on all cylinders and doesn’t hold back its strong, socio-political message. The truth is needed and both El-P and Killer Mike provide it brilliantly. It’s an fantastic body of work and I hope everyone gets to listen to it because it is truly phenomenal.
Black Lives Matter.
Buy and support Run The Jewels 4 by purchasing it through the link below. All proceeds will go to National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Fund.