Anger is an energy. When Killer Mike – one half of Run The jewels, the rap duo which had hovered at the edge of greatness ever since they formed nearly a decade ago – spoke out about the killing of George Floyd, his words were touched with bitterness and rage, but also a sense of perspective and control that gave them stunning eloquence. By the time he’d finished, America’s struggle for equality was laid bare for millions of those previously ignorant to it.
The pair released their fourth album into this maelstrom, dropping if for free, inviting bystanders and commentators to submerge themselves in their dangerous, polemical world. Here nothing happens by accident, the victims are nearly all of us and the masters few, usually invisible and totally beyond the reach of laws, democracy and accountability.
There’s a prescience at work here, or a depressingly predictable recurring theme to be more precise: when Mike spits out: ‘And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / Till my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, I can’t breathe’, the words are not about Floyd’s death, but that of Eric Garner in similar circumstances in 2014.
Musically the two have never been so animated, El-P overseeing a typically inventive sort of chaos on the standout likes of Holy Calamaf*ck and Goonies vs E.T. There are big name guest stars here too in Zach La Rocha, Pharrel and Josh Homme, but their roles remain strictly as players and not the game.
Brutal, funny, occasionally deeply affecting, RTJ4 doesn’t claim to have the answers, instead it’s a set of head shots designed to float like a butterfly and sting your thought processes like a bee. It’s legacy deserves be more than just a victory won in what promises still to be a long struggle.
You can read the full review here.