This year has been a strange and stressful one for performing artists. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak and the overabundance of caution that has been taken throughout the music industry, release dates for EPs and albums from acts in every genre have been shifted up and pushed back with little to no warning. Now thanks to another issue, the protests that have come forth as a result of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, another change recently happened in another act’s release date. Hip-hop duo Run The Jewels was originally scheduled to release its new album Run The Jewels 4 in September. Then it was pushed up to this past Friday, June 5. Because of everything happening in recent days, the duo released the album two days earlier on June 3. Two days difference for release is not that much. Regardless, it can be said of the duo’s fourth full-length studio recording that it is an enjoyable new offering. That is thanks to the album’s musical and lyrical content. Each item will be addressed here. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and brings everything together. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make the fourth entry in Run The Jewels’ album series one more of this year’s top new rap and hip-hop albums.
Run The Jewels’ latest full-length studio recording – its fourth so far – is another impressive offering from the duo. That is thanks in part to the record’s collective musical arrangements. The album’s musical content is a strong hybrid of old school hip-hop beats and sampling with more modern rap and hip-hop elements. The vocal delivery style of the duo – El-P and Killer Mike – plays just as much into the musical content as the music itself. The direct, rhythmic fashion in which the men deliver each song’s lines is unique as it boasts its own vibe even as it works right in time with the beats. The pair works just inside the lines, so to speak, to keep things just interesting enough in their delivery. This sort of overall presentation seems increasingly rare in hip-hop and rap. The last time that any act presented such a sense through its work was perhaps from Outcast. That is the closest comparison that this critic can make in listening to the record’s musical aspects. Keeping this in mind, the musical element of Run The Jewels 4 forms a strong foundation for the record. That foundation is strengthened even more through the record’s lyrical content.
The lyrical content featured alongside Run The Jewels 4’s musical elements is important to note because of its depth. Much as with the duo’s past albums, the lyrics featured throughout the album defy the trappings of so many rap and hip-hop albums, presenting commentary that will engage audiences. This is proven in part through the song ‘Walking in the Snow,’ which focuses on a variety of topics. Late in the song’s run, the duo tackles the nation’s systemic racism, stating, “The way I see it you’re probably freest from the ages one to four/Around the age of five you’re shipped away/For your body to be stored/They promise education/But really they give you tests and scores/And they predictin’ prison population by who scorin’ the lowest/And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me/And every day on evening news/They feed you fear for free/And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me/And ‘til my voice goes from a shriek to a whisper/”I can’t breathe”/And you sit there in the house on the couch/And watch it on TV/The most you give’s a Twitter rant/And call it a tragedy.” The song continues in similar fashion with its direct statement addressing the systemic racism in this nation. It is a sharp, precise condemnation of everything going on. It is a statement that is certain to connect with listeners. Earlier in the song, the duo even compares the state of the world to the Nay prison at Guantanamo Bay, called for short “Gitmo.” There is a line, which states, “This whole world’s a s*** moat/Filled to the brim like GitMo.” The song even goes after the “pseudo-Christians” and their view of certain things going on in the world. It’s one more way in which just this one song proves the importance of the album’s lyrical content. The song in whole is even more biting and is certain to be one of the album’s most memorable and important works.
‘Ooh La La,’ the album’s second song, is another example of what makes the lyrical content in this record so important. At one point in this song, the duo seems to address Donald Trump and his legions. This is inferred first as Killer Mike states, “F*** a king or queen/And all of their loyal subjects/I’ll pull my p*** out and p*** on their shoes in public.” This critic could be wrong in the interpretation, but at the same time, that Trump acts as if he is a king or dictator is a telling statement. That mention of a king or queen’s subjects could be a reference to Trump’s legions who give in to everything that he says and does. It’s just one of the statements that is sure to have listeners engaged in this case. It’s just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves to be so important. ‘Never Look Back’ is yet another example of the important of the album’s lyrical content.
‘Never Look Back’ is important because it comes across as one of the duo reminiscing on his upbringing. That is inferred in the song’s lead verse in which a mention of the rapper’s parents is made. It states of their influence, “Never look back/Heard ‘em say that before/Sound like the type of advice I’d ignore/Funny how time feel off/Tick tock/You think deaths beat/It drop a clock shot.” At another point, the song’s most important statement is made: “So here’s the play: you can’t go forward and you can’t go back/The past/The present/The future/All irrelevant/The only thing that matters is latitude/Gratitude is everything/Time is nothing.” In other words, focus on one’s self, not where one is going and where one has been. That’s a hard-hitting statement that will resonate with any listeners. To that end, that statement, along with the rest of the song’s content and that of the rest of the album’s songs, makes the album’s lyrical content clearly something hugely important. Together with the musical content, the album’s lyrical content shows even more why the record’s overall content makes it so engaging and entertaining. Those elements, together with the album’s sequencing, add even more impact to the album’s presentation.
In examining RTJ4’s overall sequencing, the record keeps its energy flowing relatively stable from beginning to end. The record’s first half boasts a mid-tempo vibe with its beats and rhymes. As it reaches its midpoint in ‘Walking in the Snow,’ the record slows down, but is still impacting in its own right. The record’s energy gradually builds back again from there until it reaches its penultimate point, ‘Pulling the Pen.’ From there, the record closes out on a more mid-tempo work in ‘A Few Words For The Firing Squad.’ Each song boasts its own powerful, engaging energy and content. Looking back, the record’s sequencing proves to be just as important to its presentation as its content because it ensures that the album’s energies keep things just as interesting as the general content. To that end, it is in fact just as important as the album’s content. Together with the musical and lyrical material, the album’s presentation ensures its place among this year’s new rap and hip-hop albums.
Run The Jewels’ new album RTJ4 is a fully engaging and entertaining presentation that every rap and hip-hop fan should hear. That is due to musical content that is a fresh breath of old school hip-hop and rap. The album’s lyrical content does its own part to ensure listeners’ engagement, as does its sequencing, as has been evidenced here. Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of this album. All things considered, they make RTJ4 one of this year’s top new hip-hop and rap albums. It is available now. More information on Run The Jewels’ new album is available along with all of the duo’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.