Pulled forward and released for free in response to the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Run The Jewels' latest album is their most laser-focused, high-intensity record yet. The social commentary is turned up to eleven and with the pain and anger in the US and across the world, it's never been better timed - or more necessary.
'Walking in the Snow' illustrates this perfectly. Far and away the hardest hitting track on the album, the tragically prescient lyrics "And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / And 'til my voice goes from a shriek to a whisper, 'I can't breathe'" were recorded last year but sound like they could have been written days ago.
These blistering attacks on the police system and institutional racism in America could come across as preachy or heavy-handed from a less-skilled group, but El-P and Killer Mike are masters of turning their rage into something that's not just socially aware, but also a compelling listen. 'Ju$t', featuring Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha, is a withering attack on the American state, but it's also a great song with a catchy hook and memorable instrumentals that stands with the best of Run The Jewels' output.
The features on 'RTJ4' are another example of how 20 years' experience can make you a master of your craft, all of them feeling absolutely integral in a way that's so often not the case in hip-hop. 2 Chainz effortlessly glides into 'Out of Sight' with a career-best verse then slips out again without disrupting the flow of the track at all, while the inclusion of Mavis Staples on 'Pulling the Pin' elevates it to the status of instant classic.
Run The Jewels have never been shy about their support of social issues, but 'RTJ4' proves that not only are they on the right side of history, they're also at the top of their game. Trimmed of all the fat, 'RTJ4' is Killer Mike and El-P doing what they do best, louder than they've ever done it before.