Album Review | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 4

This album was originally scheduled for release on June 5th this year. However, due to all the police-related chaos transpiring in the United States, Killer Mike & El-P decided to release it two days early, so that was a nice surprise. I still haven’t listened to it yet as of June 8th at 7:56 PM EST, but obviously this is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Every single Run the Jewels album has been amazing, and Run the Jewels 3 was my favorite yet. I think RTJ are one of the best Hip Hop duos of all time. There aren’t many other musical acts who have a consistently amazing discography like these guys. I’m hoping this latest project just solidifies my stance. Every song is produced by El-P, Little Shalimar, and Wilder Zoby.

1. yankee & the brave (ep. 4)

This song was previewed by El-P on March 21st on Instagram, but I chose not to listen to it at the time. I’d rather just wait ’til the full, CDQ version of the song drops. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long. This shit is fire. I like this even more Ooh LA LA. I was more impressed by Mike on that song, but it’s the opposite for this one. I think El-P got ’em here. His flow was crazy, and it fit so perfectly over this amazing, hard-hitting production. Don’t get me wrong though; it’s not like El-P completely smoked Mike. They both killed it. I was just slightly more impressed by El-P. The storytelling here is wild. It’s so fucking good. It kinda reminded me of Nas’ Undying Love in a way, but this is more of an over-the-top, cartoonish Action story than a Tragedy. This is apparently the opening track from Run the Jewels 4, which is kinda bittersweet to be honest. I don’t usually like when the opening song to an album is released ahead of time, but it’s not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I think the song is amazing.

2. ooh la la featuring Greg Nice & DJ Premier

This shit is fucking fire. I can’t wait for Run the Jewels 4, man. I will say, I do have some nitpicks, but overall I love the song. First of all, the beat is fire. It is very repetitive, but I’m okay with that because the loop sounds fantastic. The Greg Nice sample got slightly tedious by the time the first verse ended; I feel like they could’ve fleshed the hook out a bit more. A third verse would’ve done this song a lot of favors too. The rapping here is phenomenal though. I’ve consistently been more impressed by El-P with all the RTJ albums, but I really feel like Mike stood out the most here. El-P still killed this shit though.
When we talk we Kalashnikov, keep us in your thoughts
Fully dressed at the crack of dawn, weapons letting off
I can hear them from the block, see them creeping through the fog
Season’s greetings, now feeding season can start, oh my God
I just feel like Mike made it a point to sound as villainous as possible on this track, and he definitely pulled it off. He’s a fucking beast on this joint.
First of all, fuck the fuckin’ law; we is fuckin’ raw
Steak tartare, oysters on the half-shell, sushi bar
Life a bitch, and the pussy fish; still fucked her raw
I’m a dog, I’m a dirty dog, HAHAHAHAHA
His final verse was even fucking better though. I love the anarchistic attitude that RTJ bring to every record, and Mike went all in here.
Fuck a king or queen and all of their loyal subjects
I’ll pull my penis out and I piss on their shoes in public
People, we the pirates, the pride of this great republic
No matter what you order, motherfucker, we’re what you’re stuck with
I live for this shit, man. Again, I think it could’ve been a bit more fleshed out—an additional verse or a more detailed hook could’ve done a lot to help this track. It’s still fire though, and the scratches from DJ Premier were a really nice touch. Don’t sleep on it.

3. out of sight featuring 2 Chainz

The beat on this track is really dope, although I have to admit that it did start feeling just ever so slightly too repetitive by the time the song ended. I do really enjoy it though. It sounds like theme music for a cartoon character or something. I really like the opening verse in which El-P & Mike trade bars. The hook is pretty awesome too. The second verse from Mike has one of my favorite lines on the song.
We cool as penguin pussy on the polar cap peninsula
El-P follows it up with the best flow on the song. At first I thought 2 Chainz had the best verse on the song, but on repeat listens I think El-P had the best performance.
Was fryin’ in the fat of the land, now your man is mashin’
We back of the class and laughin’, you raisin’ a hand and tattlin’
Mike shitted in your locker, then left a note with a winky face
Meet us at three o’clock if you wanna do something tragic
We’ll shrinky-dinky all of that yappin’, it’s automated
The gears of the rapper shredder want action and it’ll have it
That rapper shredder line is crazy to me. 2 Chainz definitely didn’t disappoint though. He killed this shit. I think he sounds perfect over this beat. One thing that kinda bothers me is that 2 Chainz no longer yells his name before spitting a guest verse, which is pretty disappointing, but that’s obviously not a huge issue with the song itself. Overall, I think the track is dope as hell.

4. Holy Calamafuck co-produced by Boots & Dave Sitek

This is a major highlight on the album for me. The production here is fucking immaculate. It’s super detailed and elaborate. Both of the first couple verses from Mike & El-P are great, but when that beat switches up and El-P starts going in on the the third verse???
I loved the little anecdote about him tripping and meeting magical elves after licking the back of a toad, and the way he ended it was hard as fuck.
Every other goddamned year I’m brand new
It’s been 20 plus years, you think that’s a clue?
Maybe this guy kinda kill what he do
He’s prolly that dude, he left enough proof
Plenty of these goofs disappeared, poof
He’s still the next big thing, gotta hurt, oof
He killed this this shit. The final verse from Mike is fantastic too.
One minute, let me be candid
Used to stand by the garbage can hand to hand
And that dumb trap shit, no proper planning
Seen ignorant shit like geekers dancing
And rappers rap about it like it’s so romantic
But I still can’t seem to escape the panic
PTSD, streets did the damage
Kept me in hammock, laid back with cannons
I can’t decide whose performance I prefer; my answer would probably change depending on my mood. The song as a whole is sizzling hot fiya though. It’s dope af.

5. Goonies Vs. E.T. co-produced by Nick Hook

The way the previous song transitions into this one is pretty funny to me. El-P’s flow on the first verse was fucking awesome. The way he said this line sounded so good.
Truly the Cadillac of how to contract L’s on the quick
The production here is fire too. The beat sounds a bit more Boom Bap-ish than pretty much any of the others on the album. El-P spazzed on that first verse. The lyrics in the hook are pretty cool too.
If I make another wish, I would wish for a wish for you
But the brass on the magic lamp’s damn near rubbed through
It’s been wish after wish after wish after wish
And the chances are that none are comin’ true
The scratches from DJ Cutmaster Swiff are a great touch, and Stuart Bogie’s saxophone contribution here is fantastic. Killer Mike really slaughtered that second verse too.
Ain’t no revolution that’s televised and digitized
You’ve been hypnotized and Twitter-ized by silly guys
Cues to the evenin’ news, make sure you ill-advised
Got you celebratin’ the generators of genocide
Any good deed is pummeled, punished, and penalized
Rulers of the world will slice it up like a dinner pie
Race in a nation told you to identify
People take false pride and warfare incentivized
Fuck that, me and my tribe, we on an iller vibe
We accept the role of the villains ’cause we been villainized
Stomped to the dirt of the Earth, we still will arise
In the Terrordome, let me alone as I soliloquize
Overall, I definitely wouldn’t consider this a highlight on the album just because I find the production to be relatively unadventurous, and the structure is incredibly straightforward, but everything is still very well done. The song is dope as hell to me.

6. Walking in the Snow featuring Gangsta Boo

This is a major highlight on the album for me. I think it has some of the best rapping on the album, one of the best hooks, and another amazing instrumental. The opening verse from El-P is fucking incredible.
This whole world’s a shit moat, filled to the brim like Gitmo
When you think it don’t get mo’ low it limbo ’til the sticks on flo’
All oppression’s born of lies, I don’t make the rules, I’m just one guy
All due respect, if getting spit on’s how respect is now defined
Again, this song has some of the best rapping on the whole project. He annihilated this shit.
Funny fact about a cage, they’re never built for just one group
So when that cage is done with them and you still poor, it come for you
The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used
You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too
Pseudo-Christians, y’all indifferent, kids in prisons ain’t a sin? Shit
If even one scrap of what Jesus taught connected, you’d feel different
What a disingenuous way to piss away existence, I don’t get it
I’d say you lost your goddamn minds if y’all possessed one to begin with
I really loved the hook on this song from Gangsta Boo. It reminded me of a book I read in middle school entitled Between the Shades of Gray.
Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker cold
I didn’t care for the previous song that RTJ & Gangsta Boo did together, so it’s cool that they came back and made one of my favorite songs that they’ve ever done. Killer Mike spit one of the year’s most chilling and tragic verses here too, especially when you consider current events and how catastrophically prophetic it is since it was written last year.
The way I see it, you’re probably freest from the ages one to four
Around the age of five you’re shipped away for your body to be stored
They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores
And they predictin’ prison population by who scoring the lowest
And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me
And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free
And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
I really can’t decide whose performance on this song I prefer because every line is beautifully written.
All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin’ but slaves
Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state
The closing verse in which they’re both trading bars is fire too. This is not only one of the best songs on the album, but also one of the best I’ve heard all year. This shit is boiling hot fiya.

7. JU$T featuring Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha

This is easily my least favorite song on the album, and the most disappointing track. I do still like it though. My one major gripe is really just Pharrell Williams’ performance on the hook. He sounds awkward as hell here to me. The lyrics are kind of ingenious to be honest; it’s just his flow and delivery that I don’t like at all. This song also has a relatively uninteresting beat in my opinion, but it’s still pretty solid. The opening verse from Mike is pretty nice from a lyrical standpoint, but I have to admit that his flow was a bit stale to me. El-P killed that second verse though. The baseball scheme that he opened with was awesome, and the reference to the lynching of Eric Garner was also unfortunately very timely.
This is New York City
The X on the map where the pain keep hitting
Just us ducks here sitting
Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’
Funny how some say money don’t matter
That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy
Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food
Get killed and it’s not an anomaly
Zack probably had my favorite verse on the song to be honest. It’s definitely between him & El-P.
Too rude for ya rudiments
Who convinced you you could move against the crew in this?
Comin’ up through the fence
Offshore outta Port-au-Prince
L’Ouverture left his fingerprints
On our hearts at the gate and the world our residence
Overall, I definitely think this is a very entertaining song. Again, it’s my least favorite track, but it’s mainly just because of the relatively unremarkable production along with a terrible contribution from Pharrell. The song’s still dope to me though.

8. Never Look Back

I think this song actually has one of the most interesting beats on the album. With that said, it’s one of my least favorites. I really love the opening verse from El-P though; it feels more personal than most of the other verses from him up to this point on the record.
BK air in the summertime choke
Ain’t shit fly but the drones, oh no
Low on the smokes, grab another pack, go
Pops smoked too when playing piano
Pops, I’m you, it’s funny how that go
Mom, you too, I never could drink slow
Never look back, heard her say that before
Sound like the type of advice I’d ignore
I don’t think Mike’s verse was quite as great, but he still did a very good job. However, they both spit two more 8 bar verses after the first recital of the somewhat forgettable hook, and I think Mike’s performance at this point is much better.
Tell the truth, fella, you were never really special
You were just a lame nigga with a hit record
Your time came and it changed like the weather
Run the Jewels, motherfucker, we still forever
This isn’t really one of my favorite songs on the project, but I still like it quite a bit. The production is solid and both of the MCs’ performances were great, especially from El-P. This shit is dope.

9. The Ground Below

I feel almost the same way about this song as I did with the preceding track. I think the Rock-influenced production is cool, but it’s far from my favorite on the project. The opening verse from Mike is fire though.
This is Bonaparte and he paired with Toussaint
And they went on a world conquest, tearing your bone apart
Michael remained murderous, but still virtuous
Wait to kill the petty and foul at the church services
Not a holy man, but I’m moral in my pervertedness
So I support the sex workers unionizing their services
I’m personally not really into the hook on this song at all. I think the lyrics are cool, but it just sounds bad to me. Thankfully, the second verse from El-P is even crazier than Killer Mike’s verse.
Born from the ether, I just appeared out a cloud of reefer
Screamin’ “Fuck the world,” it can drink what’s coming out my urethra
I’ll slap a dying child, he don’t pronounce my name correct
Rules have gotta be rules, any exceptions and I’m not a leader
The way he ended the verse with that time machine line was awesome. Overall, this is definitely another low point on the album for me, but I still like it. I think it’s a dope song.

10. Pulling the Pin featuring Mavis Staples & Josh Homme co-produced by Boots

This is probably my second favorite song on the album to be honest. The production here is fucking incredible. Same goes for El-P’s writing on the opening verse.
From a long line of the rancidest swine came the violators
The cloven foot designers of high crime for the iron ages
Twisting down through time, see them tryna unwind creation
Don’t be surprised, it’s a mistake to think their influence had faded
“Well, what a wretched state of danger we’ve made here,” I thought to me
Perhaps explaining years of self lobotomy, toxicly
Perhaps explaining tears and even tears in my cosmology
You numb yourself for years and it can wear upon you, honestly
The sung hook from Mavis Staples is absolutely fucking marvelous, and probably the most beautiful part of the entire album sonically. Killer Mike’s verse was phenomenal as well.
The devils, they do the despicable
And still, they move like they invincible
These filthy criminals sit at the pinnacle
Doin’ the typical, keepin’ us miserable
I liked El-P’s verse a little more, but they both slaughtered this shit, and I think the song is flawless personally. The song is sizzling hot fiya.

11. A Few Words for the Firing Squad (Radiation) co-produced by Matt Sweeney

This is my favorite song on the album. They really ended things on a super grandiose, dramatic note. This song is incredible. Everything about it, from the production, to the writing, to the weird ass outro is perfect to me. The beat kinda reminded me of the F-Zero theme song for whatever reason. It also reminds me a lot of Angel Duster, which is still one of my favorite RTJ songs. The opening verse from El-P is glorious.
I used to wanna get the chance to show the world I’m smart
Isn’t that dumb? I should’ve focused mostly on the heart
‘Cause I seen smarter people trample life like it’s an art
So bein’ smart ain’t what it used to be, that’s fuckin’ dark
You ever notice that the worst of us have all the chips?
It really kinda takes the sheen off people gettin’ rich
Like maybe rich is not the holy, ever-lovin’
King of nothin’ fuckers, know we know you’re bluffin’
I love how emotional the rapping from Mike is on this song. All of his lines were beautifully written.
When my mother transitioned to another plane I was sitting on a plane
Tellin’ her to hold on, and she tried hard, but she just couldn’t hang
Been two years; truth is I’ll probably never be the same
Dead serious, it’s a chore not to let myself go insane
It’s crippling, make you wanna lean on a cup of promethazine
But my queen say she need a king, not another junkie, flunky rapper fiend
Friends tell her, “He could be another Malcolm, he could be another Martin”
She told her partner, “I need a husband more than the world need another martyr”
The last two verses on this song are really heartening too. It’s like they’re saying “I know things are fucked up and life is kicking your ass right now, but hang in there.”
For the holders of a shred of heart even when you wanna fall apart
When you’re surrounded by the fog, treadin’ water in the ice cold dark
When they got you feelin’ like a fox runnin’ from another pack of dogs
Put the pistol and the fist up in the air, we are there, swear to God
I really love the weird melodic Yankee & the Brave outro to this song too. There are apparently some uncredited vocals from A$AP Ferg, which sound shockingly good. I seriously never would’ve guessed that they were from him. This song is scorching hot fiya.

This album is amazing. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year. Run the Jewels 3 is still my favorite RTJ album, but this is probably my second favorite now. There’s not a single track here that I don’t like. El-P’s production is super detailed and explosive here as always, and the writing is top tier. I of course love the political content, and I also like when they get more personal and emotional. I’d kinda like to see more of that, but I understand if they’d wanna save that kinda stuff for their solo work. They aren’t really doing anything here that they haven’t done in the past, but that’s not an issue for me at all. It’s just a shit ton of God-level production with stellar political rapping. Damn near every feature here was phenomenal too. There was kind of a dip in quality from track 7 to 9 in my opinion, but the songs were still dope. Overall, it’s yet another amazing body of work from one of the best musical duos of all time. Do not sleep on this.

SCORE: 91 (A)