Vinyl Vlog 451

Vinyl Vlog 451

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Wednesday, 07 October 2020
COLUMN

Run the Jewels
RTJ4 4XLP Deluxe Edition + Instrumentals
photo: turntablelab.com

Is there any hope left for the youth? In a year filled with turmoil, the stakes have never been higher. If there ever was a time to educate ourselves it’s now. But, what’s the song of the summer? WAP. Meanwhile, Run the Jewels have released the smartest album of the year and it’s not getting anywhere near the attention it should.

There was a period in the mid-2000s where I almost completely stopped listening to rap music. I don’t know if it was my ongoing exploration of punk, newly discovered love of folk, or what it was exactly, but I just couldn’t relate with the rap I was hearing on the radio or seeing on TV. Then, a conversation with Dillinger Four shed some light on the situation for me. As their bassist Paddy Costello would tell me, the overall quality of mainstream rap music has gone down to such an extent that we might as well stop paying attention to it. Like with all good art forms, you have to go to independent sources to get to the stuff that’s worthwhile.

Next thing you know I was listening to Aesop Rock, El-P, and Tribe Called Quest. I was able to pick out the interesting stuff from the garbage music and even appreciated early Wu-Tang Clan and (very) early Jay-Z.

Now, there’s a reason we don’t cover artists like Cardi-B, Jay-Z, Kanye, or Kendrick Lamar on Ground Control, and that’s because we wouldn’t know where to start with such music: so removed from the masses and blasting from an ivory tower, sucking our souls like a sponge to stay alive. We try focus more on the interesting stuff here, and maybe the independent rap album to get the most attention this year is Run the Jewels’ fourth full length RTJ4.

Run the Jewels have never sounded better or more urgent. There is just so much that Killer Mike and El-P get right on their latest effort: the beats are interesting, the lyrics and contents are politically charged and extremely topical covering Black Lives Matter, gun control, and systemic issues. El-P and Killer Mike work off each other like a team, and the tracks stick to your brain like glue. Most importantly, RTJ4 flows much better than any of their previous efforts: each song is discernable and unique and stands out all on its own, while at the same time the theme stays constant. RTJ also don’t play that tired game of inviting the same boring mainstream rappers on their albums so instead of an act stealing the show, the guests here compliment the tracks. RTJ4 was even released early and for free, because again, art is about the message not the money. Run the Jewels get it. Bravo, boys.

We love over-the-top vinyl releases and RTJ4 is definitely one of those. This deluxe edition features 4 vinyl records (because it’s RTJ4, get it?), which include the entire album plus a whole instrumental version of it. It’s a massive bulky gatefold featuring exclusive artwork, and of course, on gold and magenta vinyl. It’s a record that makes itself both heard AND seen.

RTJ4 proves that it’s we grew up and started being more active when it comes to the music we listen to. Instead of slowing down, Run the Jewels keeps coming, and their latest effort is one of the best albums of the year.

Get it here.

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