That is the first thing that came to mind as I clicked open the “new music” section of Apple Music on Christmas morning, finding out the new Run the Jewels album had been released earlier than expected. After RTJ2 bashed me over the head the way it did, it has stayed in constant rotation since its release. While RTJ1 didn’t hit me as hard, I even went back to that album every now and then. Prior to the release of RTJ3, I stayed away from Meow the Jewels (their remix album of RTJ2 where the beats are remixed using cat sounds). I even managed to refrain from listening to the singles (“Talk to Me”, “2100”, “Legend Has It”) just because I didn’t want to feel disappointed.
After all, over the course of three years, Killer Mike & El-P have raised the bar to what makes a classic album these days in Hip-Hop. RTJ1 and RTJ2 are albums that are short in length but when the first track hits, it gets straight to the point and holds nothing back, going back and forth between bombast and aggression. This is a group that is not for the politically correct and at a time where this country is diving head first into the toilet and music all across the board is as dull, uninspired and redundant as ever before, we need a sign, we need a voice, we need hope that things will take a turn for the better. So did it? Let’s find out.
1. Down Featuring Joi; Produced by El-P Now I will admit, this song doesn’t impact the way recent openers have on RTJ’s albums. You look back at “Run the Jewels” off the first album and that shit was HARD. “Jeopardy”, same feel, same vibe. This is a little more down-tuned in energy. Now that is not to say that the song isn’t good. “Down” does grow on you with repeated listens. The lyrical content is interesting also, where Mike and Jamie are saying farewell to their former selves and looking to the future with newer mindsets and clearer goals. The numerous times that I have listened to this album, I constantly remind myself, that this is only the calm before the storm.
2. Talk to Me Produced by El-P NOW, WE ARE FUCKING TALKING!!! It’s back to business with just bangers from these guys. This was the first single released from the album, through Adult Swim, and I remember at first, liking it, but not loving it. I think it only proves that some singles are better heard throughout the context of the album itself. Mike drops a line that I’m going to use often on social media taglines.
My job is to fight for survival, in spite of these All Lives Matter ass white folk.
Everything about this track is just trademark RTJ. Something to just fuck shit up to. El-P’s production has just continued to get better and better with time and age, I mean he’s always had those beats that just bang throughout the whole block (listen to Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein if you think I’m playin…) but man…this is just that heat. Oh and by the way, remember how Mike killed a poodle in the title track on the first album? El kills a bunny. That’s all you need to know.
Can’t wait to tell my future smash, that I have a unicorn horn for a….
4. Call Ticketron Produced by El-P The way those synths just skitter throughout the song is just perfection. Nothing too noteworthy about the content, it’s just bombast and braggadocio all in one, but guess what? I don’t care. This is a banger!!!
RUN THE JEWELS LIVE AT THE GARDEN!!! MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!
Another line I plan to use for my own:
We be the realest of the killers of the fuck shit squadron!
5. Hey Kids (Bumaye) Featuring Danny Brown; Produced by El-P THIS IS SO CRAZY!!! And now it begins, Mike and Jamie begin to revolt against the establishment with a theme that starts to manifest throughout the album and doesn’t let up until the end of the album, but we will save that for later. Another banger from the guys and Danny Brown’s verse is exactly what you expect from him, except magnified joining up with RTJ.
6. Stay Gold Produced by El-P I really need one of these in my life… a brain with an ass girl… like… why is it that difficult to come across one of those, I mean I know where I live is small town, but fuck…ladies…HELP ME OUT!!! TALK TO ME!!! See how I referenced that? Get it? OH SHIT, THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!!! Anyways, the hype begins to wear a little bit here. There isn’t anything too special that stands out on me for this, but maybe it is because of being so overwhelmed from the last couple of tracks that preceded it. Still bangs though.
7. Don’t Get Captured Produced by El-P Gentrification, the murder rate, police killings, Snow on Tha Bluff. It’s all covered here. El-P drops a dope verse that paints a vivid picture of what feels like a reoccurring scene these days, of unarmed black men getting killed on camera and the crooked policing behind the scenes and in the act of it:
We live to hear you say “please don’t shoot” A pure delight, c’mon, make my night When I file reports what’s right’s what I write Snuff films air all night ’till your last sane thought take flight What a great sight, what a job, what a good life The more we act wrong the more we are right And who exactly gon’ stop what we got? We don’t argue, we are not calm and impartial Some call it work, but it’s more like an art We just paint the walls with your heart And we better not catch you
They’re. Not. Holding. Back……speaking of….
8. Thieves (Screamed the Ghost) Produced by El-P; Featuring Tunde Adebimpe Now I’m going to get real here, this song hits a soft spot for me. Not only with places such as Ferguson, but that it soon hit right here in my home of Milwaukee. I remember getting out of work and going to a bar to see a couple of friends, I was completely withdrawn from everything that happened earlier throughout the day, I get to the bar and every television screen plays the same images, of my neighborhood going literally up in smoke due to civil unrest. The cause of that, no different than Ferguson, excessive force from police that ended up in a murder. The riots led to numerous business being looted and burned down and even now, four to five months later after, it still feels like a ghost town, walking through my neighborhood and noticing things that are no longer there.
I know there are elements to this story that don’t completely match what happened, I am even aware that this isn’t the best way to express this, especially in a fucking album review, but knowing that right here for me, this is the highlight of the album, basically for Mike and El, hitting it on the head perfectly on all perspectives.
9. 2100 Featuring Boots; Produced by El-P
How long before the hate that we hold Lead us to another Holocaust? Are we so deep in it that we can’t end it? Stop, hold, ever call it off It’s too clear, nuclear’s too near And the holders of the molotov Say that “Revolution’s right here, right now” And they ain’t callin’ off
Where were you on the night of the Presidential Election? Well, this happened to be released on the same night and quite honestly, it is a shame that I didn’t give it as much of a valued listen then, just because I feel…we weren’t ready for it. Going back to what I was saying earlier, about needing that voice of reason and that voice of hope for what’s coming our way soon, I’m going to keep this song tucked in a playlist of songs that I am going to need to help me get through the next four years…..let’s just hope it isn’t eight.
Nonetheless, Killer Kill for the Kill with the last few lines in his first verse, where the only way to combat hate is with love and El complimenting that in his second verse about looking for a shed of light to help illuminate what we see in order to understand it.
10. Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix) Featuring Trina; Produced by El-P & Boots AND WE’RE BAAAACCCCKKKKK!!!! Ah man I love this!!! Just how the synths and bass gel together with the drums, the guitar distortion that comes through in parts and the classic brag raps of Mike and El that compliments every bit of the production. Also, I see it now…Gangsta Boo on RTJ2….Trina on RTJ3…..Queen Pen on RTJ4!!! Calling it!!!
There’s nothing more to say. Play this in your car. Piss your neighbors off. Plain and simple.
11. Everybody Stay Calm Produced by El-P A little “calmer” to say the least. Nothing too special but it still bangs. I’m not a fan of the pitch-shifted hook though. Maybe I’m the only one. Who knows? Don’t skip this, but I will understand if you do.
12. Oh Mama Produced by El-P That distorted guitar in the beginning…..YES!….are you noticing yet that I am a sucker for guitars? The production here is just hypnotic while it’s just pummeling you at the same time. Do right by your mothers! That’s all.
13. Thursday in the Danger Room Featuring Kamasi Washington; Produced by El-P Two stories, two different views, but the central theme of this song is simple….
And whether it be sickness or whether it be another man’s greed, we all must cherish the ones we love and that if there is an afterlife beyond this, we will see our loved ones yet again, but for right now, hold on to them in memory and thought. Whether this is exactly what Mike and Jamie were leading to, it is definitely what I got from the song. This is a touching song and once again, much needed as we’re this close to the end of the album.
14. A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters Featuring Zack de la Rocha; Produced by El-P I’m going to be honest, the first couple of listens, “A Report to the Shareholders” I completely ignored until “Kill Your Masters” came on. My explanation for that was not because of it being wack or whatever, or me being the Zack de la Rocha/Rage Against the Machine fan boy that I am…I had been so overwhelmed by everything before it that it just kind of drifted. Listening back, you hear gems in their verses. El-P admitting that when he started the group with Killer Mike, he didn’t think they’d last this long. Take the money and run if you will.
When I started this band, didn’t have no plans, didn’t see no arc Just run with the craft, have a couple laughs Make a buck and dash, yeah Get a little dap like “Yeah I’m the fucking man!”, yeah Maybe give a little back like, “Here, I do what I can”” Mike throwing a middle finger to the media and critics for the misinterpretations of his lyrics. “Told the truth and I’ve been punished for it, must be a masochist ’cause I done it again Ooh, Mike said “uterus”, they acting like Mike said “You a bitch” To every writer who wrote it, misquoted it Mike says, “You a bitch, you a bitch, you a bitch!” Add a “nigga” for that black writer that started that sewer shit I maneuver through manure like a slumdog millionaire
Nevertheless, they remain not giving a fuck and will proceed to not give a fuck until the establishment is fucked…..and then it goes into “Kill Your Masters”.
“Kill Your Masters” to an extent…is kind of a part two to “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”. Not as hectic and urgent as “Close Your Eyes” but it still hits hard. Zack…man….we need that album this year…I am not fucking around either.
The bottom line is, I have not been this tuned in to a rap album all year (given this came out at the tail end of 2016) but with me, there are only a few artists/groups in which I allow myself to pay attention to full detail. Those are the artists that hold immense value in my eyes.
Run the Jewels delivered in ways that exceeded all of the expectations I had for the third installment because believe me when I say, they were extremely high. Now did this top RTJ2? I can’t say that exactly. If anything, I will have to play them back to back if I’m going to go that far into it.
All that I’m going to say is that, I don’t know what is going to happen now that the trilogy is complete, or if Mike and El are going to go their separate ways (follow-ups to R.A.P. Music and Cancer 4 Cure perhaps?) Whatever they decide, for three straight albums, they got my ears, they got my attention and in my opinion, depending on how others play out, they may have 2017’s album of the year. Hell, come to think of it, they may have added themselves to the list of artists that have been able to stay consistent for three straight albums and never drastically fall off one time.
We’ll see how it plays out, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this Christmas fucking miracle… again.