Run the Jewels 4

Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 4
Release Date
June 3, 2020

I came late to RTJ [], I first encountered them via DJ Shadow’s song “Nobody Speak” on The Mountain Will Fall []. Still one of their best songs —and their best videos [], I would put it up there with Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” [] video. From there I discovered their back catalog and was eagerly awaiting RTJ4, listening to it from the day it dropped.

Run the Jewels 4 [] gets a lot of praise as a soundtrack to the summer of protests over the death of George Floyd and the larger Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. The album was in fact released a few days early due to the ongoing protests. But, the protesting nature and the unfortunate an poingent way that RTJ4’s broad themes and specifics fit the death of George Floyd can’t really be called a coincidence. The issues aren’t new, the anger isn’t new. Even the death by suffocation a al cop isn’t new, the most disturbing line on the album, given the way George Floyd died comes midway through “Walking in the Snow” at the end of one of Killer Mike’s verses:

“I can’t breathe” could have been written about George Floyd, and indeed the song became a sort of cathartic rallying call, but it wasn’t about George Floyd. Killer Mike himself clarified on Twitter that, “that verse was rapped in 2019.” It is in fact referencing the last words of another black man killed by police; Eric Garner, whose death was filmed in 2014 in New York City. Despite the fact that this was national news in 2014 [] and again in 2019 [] when the Justice Department declined to try the officers, people seem to have forgotten it until George Floyds death.

Anyway, if you want to listen to more on the album’s place in the protests you should watch this video [] by Polyphonic over on YouTube.

Sitting in Singapore the protests were half a world away for me, I wasn’t listening to RTJ4 because I was protesting. I like RTJ. I’m not a Rap or Hip Hop aficionado, I’ve always loved the Beastie Boys and I like me some Eminem, Outkast and others, but I could never really get into the genre, neither the great popular acts like Dr. Dre or Tu Pac, back in the day or Kendrick Lamar and Drake more recently nor the more underground greats like MF Doom. But RTJ hits the spot. I love Killer Mike’s flow, reminding me of Big Boi from OutKast. And Mike’s southern flow pair perfectly with El-P’s New York style. I’ve listened to both artists solo work and while it’s good I find the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I started with RTJ3 and worked my way backwards to 2 and 1, all great. But it seems that each album is surpassed by the next release and RTJ4 is my favorite. I can’t wait to hear Run the Jewels 5.

Ready to listen?