Trapped in the self-referential narcissism of trap music, we easily forget rap is also the best tool to report injustice, racism and the false myth of American dream. Run The Jewels are back to remember that hip hop can be (once again) the connection between black culture and the social criticism of what remains of rock music.
This is why Atlanta based duo is so significant to rockers: their music is a way to talk about politics and the need for a change, in the shape of what is called alternative rap. El-P and Killer Mike know what they want and how to reach it: dance and anti capitalism, deep bass lines and social justice.
After the platinum success of RTJ3 (2016), the path that led to RTJ4 has been made of political and artistic steps: supporting Bernie Sanders’ candidature and the election of the first black woman as major of Atlanta; collaborating with Danger Mouse, touring with Lorde, writing tracks for successful movies like Venom and the Oscar winner Roma. The new album, ready before pandemia and the protests against police abuses, was scheduled to be released on June 5th, but America burning made the band decide for a free release a couple of days before. “We need to share our music immediately, we hope to bring joy in facing this troubled period”.
The main reason is that the tracks of RTJ4 talk about what is happening outside. The first “Yankee And The Brave”, an old school rap full of heavy beats, is about police abuses; the popular “Ooh La La” is a typical RTJ rap, whose videoclip has been shot just before the lockdown: “the plot of the video is about a wake up in the streets a day when there will be no monetary system and no one will be judged for the amount of money he has got”.
“Walking In The Snow”, with a dramatic bass line, tells the story of Eric Garner, killed by police in 2014 in the same way of George Floyd: “And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me – And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”-And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV-The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy”
Musically the album is influenced by the touch of the famous guests: from Pharrell Williams to Mavis Staples, from Zack de la Rocha to Josh Homme. These contributions guarantee a good balance between hip hop glittering beats and rude rock sounds, giving RTJ4 the status of the necessary soundtrack of the mess we are living and inviting black and white to fight together the battle for justice.