RUN THE JEWELS (aka Killer Mike and El-P) have returned with the explosive, brilliant RTJ4, out now on 2xLP colored vinyl!

Run the Jewels 4
bursts in with guns blazing as “Yankee and the Brave (Ep. 4)” sees Mike taking on the role of an armed assailant trapped
and surrounded by police and pondering who gets to have the kill shot. It’s an appropriate beginning for RTJ4, an album of prickly, prescient conversations and explosive noise. The best songs call back to scabrous documents of the unrest of 1989 and 1990, like Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, and to edgy political screeds drafted in the years since, like Dead Prez’s Let’s Get Free, the kind of music that used to get rappers in trouble with members of the government for incendiary logic.

RTJ4, which the band rush-released a few days ahead of schedule, is laser-focused, as if Mike and El-P are trying to outrun the apocalypse. “Pass the shit, Mike, I have to insist it/Reality sucks dick/Now, how’s that for wisdom?” El-P offers over the Godzilla-fart drones and slow-drip snare cracks of “Holy Calamafuck.” They’ve responded to an unglued world by updating the war-dance attack of Public Enemy and Ice Cube for an even grislier political age. Fascism slaps, and they slap back. El-P’s beats are harried and hype, evoking a sunless sci-fi tomorrow in the bleary attack of “Never Look Back” and “Walking In the Snow.” The lyrics are designed to shake even the most self-regardingly woke of us out of our complacency — Killer Mike lists the “hypnotized and Twitterized” alongside the “generators of genocide” he’s lashing out at during the Grade-A skull-rattler “Goonies vs. ET.”

Mike unloads on racist cops, systemic poverty, corporate media, and other eternal enemies. But the album never feels preachy, because the music bounces as much as it brays, with an elastic flow and deep history. They bring on golden-age hip-hop artists Greg Nice and DJ Premier for the playful East Coast party banger “Ooh La la”; Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and septuagenarian soul queen Mavis Staples appear on “Pulling the Pin,” a mordantly eerie meditation on the personal stakes of playing the devil’s money game. And it’s hard to think of another context where Pharrell and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine could hang out on a song that ties Instagram self-promotion to capitalist exploitation, but there they are on “Just.”

The album’s hottest heat rock, “The Ground Below,” is a punk-rap fusion for the ages, flipping a bracing shot of guitar from “Ether” by Marxist funk-punks the Gang of Four into a swinging weapon of liberation — saluting the sex workers’ union, damning the profit motive, and promising to leave the world a less fucked-up place than they found it. On “Ether,” the Gang of Four sang about exposing the dirt behind capitalism’s narcotizing daydream. In their own righteous vengeance, RTJ pick up that revolutionary notion and blow the whole lie wide open. And if you can’t get down with that, collect your MAGA hat at the door.

Stop by HORIZON to pick up RTJ4 on CD, 2xLP or indie-store only colored vinyl, or visit our webstore!

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