RTJ4 (RUN THE JEWELS)

RELEASED 5TH JUNE 2020

Favourite track: ‘pulling the pin’

There is so much going on musically in every track that it’s hard to keep up but it’s got that US Hip-Hop feel to it as it addresses the reality of the American system.  

Again, I hadn’t came across the US duo Run The Jewels before but I was struck by their interesting cover art displaying two geometric hands, one in a pointing gun gesture and the other in an clenched fist on a pink background. I went into listening to their 11-track album RTJ4 without knowing what to expect but I was definitely intrigued to hear their style and get introduced to new music, especially seeing some of the artists they collab with in this album.

Image credit: Pitchfork

The first track ‘yankee and the brave (ep.4)’ opens with a radio/TV audio opening “this week on yankee and the brave” and then suddenly transitions into Hip-Hop with complex drum beat mashed up with rap to accompany it. There’s already a lot going on instrumentally but the vocal backing (subtly done) does keep it varied and grounded. Greg Nice and DJ Premier feature on ‘ooh la la’ which opens with piano chords and a melody and then “ooh la la ah oui oui” repeated. It’s got that mashed up Hip-Hop and piano yet again here. The rap is full of expletives and crudeness which contrasts with this classy, rich, Parisian framing. ‘out of sight’ (ft. 2 Chainz) opens with chopped audio and then a proper US Hip-Hop beat and melodic bass. It’s quirky, kind of retro and playful in all it’s sound effects.

‘holy calamafuck’ has audio which then goes into a Hip-Hop beat with almost an Arab-style influence with the background music. I like this one as you can definitely move to this. It’s then interrupted with almost a revving engine sound and then the beat slows down and music changes up. It’s interesting for sure. ‘goonies vs. E.T.’ (film references galore here) has these punchy beats and synth/bass FX underneath the rap. It then gets crazy with crowd chants and a sci-fi synth whilst the bass stays consistent. ‘walking in the snow’ has a HARD beat and lots of energy making it quite a powerful and weighty track as they look at the idea of “prison”, “existence” and “education” and the reality of the US system – very timely. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha feature on the track ‘JU$T’ which repeats the line “look at all these slave masters / posin’ on yo’ dollar’ and really goes into slavery and the reality of the system yet again. There’s a lot said here and it’s certainly a track worth listening carefully too.

‘never look back’ opens with some low sci-fi synths and bass which adds the drama as they talk about how the only thing that matters is “gratitude” as looking back will only make you “bitter”. ‘the ground below’ has a real Hip-Hop combined with Rock sound which is a clash of genre but works well to create an attacking sound and strong rhythm. Mavis Staples and Josh Homme feature on ‘pulling the pin’ which has video game sound FX and 80s synths/warped bass running through as they rap about how “the universe forgot us” as haunting vocals echo in the background adding an interesting and other-worldly layer. I really like the vocals that come through here too. The final track ‘a few words for the firing squad (radiation)’ is chaotic as the strings remain constant in the background, building up the tension and drama as he speaks/raps on this track.

This would be good for the gym I think as it’s got good beats and generally fast-paced.