Rating: 8.5 // 10
Genres: Experimental Hip-Hop, Hardcore Hip-Hop
Released: 03/06/2020, Jewel Runners
Run The Jewels took the longest time yet between albums, crafting a statement – musically and politically, landing at a time where the world needs to listen more than ever.
Context is everything. When the wheels started turning for this project, neither Killer Mike or El-P could have predicted the landscape of the world this album would be birthed into. Does the recent calls against injustice that led to worldwide riots make this album’s message stronger, make this a better album?
Perhaps, but in the reality we live in this is the only version of events that we can consume this album within. World context is impossible to separate from music – it influences the lyrics, mood, so many variables both consciously and unconsciously.
It is impossible to listen to this album and not think about the world around it. Maybe if it came out at another time, my – and others’ – feelings would be different.
What truly saddens me is that these words applied before the flashpoint of George Floyd, and seemingly will apply further into an increasingly dystopian looking future.
Even if this album came out before the mass protesting, its lyrics and message would remain the same.
It is heartbreaking to think that when Killer Mike states the timely phrase “I can’t breathe” on walking in the snow, seemingly in reference to Floyd, it was actually recorded six months prior, inspired by the similar murder of Eric Garner, showing how common an occurrence this is.
The track that follows walking in the snow, JU$T, also scarily predicts the murder of Floyd, again referring to Garner’s killing with El-P‘s line:
“Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’
Funny how some say money don’t matter
That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy
Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food
Get killed and it’s not an anomaly“
Whilst this album is direct with its political content, it also isn’t beating a dead horse, analysing many parts of a broken system. It narrows in on the impact of money and capitalist systems, the role of the media in perpetuating racism, as well as discussing enviomental issues.
This is almost a manifesto in terms of the wide range of topics chosen to vent about, and whilst this album flashes past you in an instant, with just 39 minutes, it leaves a lasting impression.
The energy is high throughout, beginning with the lead single and opening track yankee and the brave (ep.4). Killer Mike gets us underway with his lyrical miracle boom-bap style laced with aggression and passion, and to his credit, El-P matches that energy and skill, creating a back and forth energy that really sets the tone.
ooh la la hosts a repetitive chorus that adds to the monotony of the beat, creating a perfect base for the duo and guests Greg Nice and DJ Premier to have fun on.
Over the project the multiple features only add to the experience, and never dominate a song. 2 Chainz joins on out of sight, another light-hearted beat that boasts hard hitting bars.
holy calamafuck features a very prominent beat switch halfway through, with the pair at their most braggadocious. Both sections of the song have a reduced, more measured feel to them, but the aggression behind the delivery is still there.
In terms of personal favourites, goonies vs. E.T. is certainly up there, with a dark and brooding atmosphere from the get go thanks to the pitched down vocals and ominous synth bassline.
There are no bad songs on this project, with other other highlights including the aforementioned walking in the snow and JU$T.
Technically, the quality of production is brilliant from El-P, who also seems to have improved vastly in terms of his flow and delivery. Killer Mike, well, kills it, but I would say his lyricism is a lot more pointed and effective than before.
The sound and feel of this is consistent with the three albums that came before it, and to suggest that this is a vast improvement would be harsh on the first three albums. Make no mistake – this is their best work together yet, but it isn’t millions of miles away from their debut.
Yes, they might not have innovated or evolved much, but have instead focused on polishing, refining their combined sound, all of which comes to a point on this record.
Truly a must-listen no matter your music tastes.
As always, Black Lives Matter. This website relies on the work, passion and artistry of Black people to create music, and whilst gratitude isn’t sufficient, we must speak up on their behalf if they are being silenced. Please check this link out for further information and resources: https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/
- yankee and the brave (ep.4) (B)
- ooh la la (B+)
- out of sight (A-)
- holy calamafuck (A-)
- goonies vs. E.T. (A-)
- walking in the snow (A*)
- JU$T (A+)
- never look back (B+)
- the ground below (A-)
- pulling the pin (B+)
- a few words for the firing squad (radiation) (A)