Run The Jewels packs a smart punch on ‘RTJ3’
By RON HARRIS
There’s a lot fire behind Run The Jewels and their latest album, “Run The Jewels 3.” They’re longtime hip-hop practitioners on a current come-up, riding a crest of notoriety as much for their infectious, two-headed rap attack as for their outspoken political stance.
Run The Jewels is one-half Outkast protege and native ATLien (Atlanta) Killer Mike and one-half El-P, a seasoned Brooklyn hip-hop head. Together, they put forth a formidable combination of conscious-but-not-corny lyrics and urban street savvy.
On “Run The Jewels 3,” their third studio album, the duo opens with “Down (feat. Joi),” a down-tempo number replete with vocal back-phrasing reminiscent of Killer Mike’s ATL brethren from Outkast. It’s a solid song, but a somewhat underwhelming first track.
The good stuff begins with “Call Ticketron,” a breathless staccato assault chronicling RTJ’s rise to prominence, told through euphemism, street knowledge and gunplay imagery.
Also good is “Stay Gold,” with its EDM-level bass reverb and spooky melody. It’s a simultaneous shout-out to strong women and the tough path toward the top of the rap game. Killer Mike even takes time to name check the Atlanta Braves mid-’90s pitching rotation of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
It’s a strong album, and it’s easy to see where Run The Jewels are coming from lyrically in relation to their life path. Where they’re going is less decided. There is a fleeting appetite for rap this culturally astute. Killer Mike spent as much time touting Bernie Sanders’ candidacy as he did rapping in 2016. But rap needs “Run The Jewels 3” for balance, if nothing else.