While everyone was busy being merry and getting festively plump, El-P and Killer Mike managed to sneak a surprise under the tree in the form of RTJ3. The duo weren’t content with just dropping the album three weeks early – in true Christmas spirit, they made their third studio release free for all to enjoy. The understated simplicity of this distribution is testament to how Run The Jewels have quickly gained both recognition and respect for continually freshening things up on the hip-hop scene.
Down is a melodic opening to proceedings – featuring the talents of Joi, from Dungeon Family fame – before the highly charged numbers Talk to Me and Legend Has It. While Talk to Me gets the blood pumping with a raucous reminder of just exactly what the listener is dealing with here, – “RTJ3 motherfucker” – the latter of these proved to be a huge mainstream success, revered by Pitchfork as one of its ‘Best New Tracks’ and receiving rapturous acclaim and hype.
Call Ticketron is a ticking time bomb of dystopian visions of America, before Hey Kids (Bumaye) brings the featured Danny Brown into the mix. After shaking things up himself with Atrocity Exhibition in September – which placed highly in many publications’ ‘Albums Of The Year’ standings – his unique delivery here again causes the listener to sit up and take notice, before leading seamlessly into the hypnotically rhythmic Stay Gold.
Don’t Get Captured gives the listener a much needed interlude from the chaos, before the more reserved sound of Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost) introduces the talents of Tunde Adebimpe to RTJ3. Run The Jewels dropped 2100 – with BOOTS reprising his role from ‘RTJ2’ – earlier in 2016, which only served to accelerate the already tantalising anticipation for the record in its entirety, before Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix) demonstrates a beat and lyrical style reminiscent of the earlier works of one of the princes of alternative hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar.
Arguably, the brakes are tentatively applied in Everybody Stay Calm and Oh Mama, prior to Kamasi Washington’s appearance on Thursday in the Danger Room. Here, angst ridden lyrics are combined with the omnipresent jazz-fuelled undercurrent of Washington’s influence, providing a venture into a more soulful and passionate place for Run The Jewels. This lays the ground works for the combined A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters, with the former proving a poignant opening before dynamically evolving into the latter, leaving a raw and pulsating end to the record.
In RTJ3, Run The Jewels have an album that further cements their reputation as masters of their trade. When compared to the two previous RTJ offerings, the astoundingly exquisite consistency of their sound – in both El-P’s production and Killer Mike’s lyrical quality – is at once apparent, but this outing is arguably the crowning jewel in their ascension to hip-hop royalty.
Words by Jonno Mack