Run The Jewels have released their new album RTJ4 two days early before its scheduled release on Friday, June 5. Many artists have been delaying their releases in response to the necessary upheaval against the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and centuries of police violence and racial injustice around the world. Putting out some stale ass record about sunshine and pizza doesn’t fit the moment, but that isn’t Run The Jewels. As they commented today, “fuck it, why wait? The world is infested with bullshit so here's something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.”
There have been plenty of artists on the front lines, marching and donating, but few have been activists like Run The Jewels, especially Killer Mike. Millions have viewed his speech on Friday night in Atlanta – an attempt to galvanize protestors not to destroy in anger, but to build up their homes and create a better world without the scourge of white supremacy that has plagued the south for centuries. It is time to rip out the roots of the confederacy and police violence in Atlanta and around the country.
The new album was meant for this time. They didn’t record this in the past week, but the themes of racial injustice and police brutality aren’t new. And that is the point. People are fucking fed up. We are fed up of watching people yell “I Can’t Breathe” as cops choke the life out of them with their fellow cops watching. We are tired of cops assuming guilt out of POC and allowing Karens to weaponize blackness. We are tired of police stepping up their brutality at the anti-police brutality protests with in discriminate use of tear gas, pepper spray and batons. If you are more concerned about a few windows broken and shirts stolen from a Zara or Target and not the indiscriminate killing of citizens by those who are supposed to protect them, you are part of the problem.
The features all give the album another dimension, especially Mavis Staples’ heart-wrenching vocals pulling the pin on a grenade on her heart about the pain that she feels from the world around her.
The group go right for the jugular about this and the current media failing to actually cover peaceful protests, not just show flashy images of the occasional burnt out car or broken window on “walking in the snow” as Killer Mike raps, “And everyday on evening news they feed you fear for free, 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, but truly the travesty, you've been robbed of your empathy, replaced it with apathy.”
However it isn’t just the police that are the problem. It is the whole system. As they yell on “JU$T,” “look at all these slave masters posing on your dollars.”
The prison system and the locking of children of cages come into focus back on “walking in the snow.” That same system will come for you, even if you think it is just a problem for some other community.
“Funny fact about a cage, they're never built for just one group, So when that cage is done with them and you're 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.”
The fake Christians are the worst, as noted by RTJ, who claim to love all as Jesus said, but are in fact incredibly selective.
“Pseudo-Christians, y'all indifferent, Kids in prisons ain't a sin? Shit, If even one scrap a what Jesus taught connected, you'd feel different, They offer an inspirational message to those who may despair in the face of overwhelming odds trying to, change the system that hates change.”
As they mention at the end of the track, the system eventually killed Jesus, yet the pseudo-Christians are eating its boots for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “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.”
They end the album with a message of hope for everyone trying to fight the system and may feel despair that things won’t change.
“Every child, woman and man, Opinion don't matter stick to your plan, If they judge, still don't budge, Don't give a inch don't give a nudge, Life a bitch, leave you battered and bent, Lose or win, gotta hold up your chin.”
Stream the album below and get a copy here. They have made it available for free on their website, but support the group in some way. Or better yet, if you download for free, donate money to a local bail fund, to the National Lawyers Guild or to a slew of organizations on their website.