2017 Album of the Year Write-Up: Run the Jewels 3 – Run the Jewels

Listen: YouTube (Playlist of Full Album)

The critical success of Run the Jewels’ 2014 album RTJ2 would certainly warrant depicting their most recent effort a victory lap. In many ways it is: it feels like a celebration of the excellent music and the eternal friendship that El-P and Killer Mike have created amongst one another. This is incredibly faulty however – a victory lap is never as good as the lap it’s commemorating and that is where this metaphor becomes moot. RTJ3 (2017) is in every way just as quality as its predecessor and in many ways exceeds it. The production at its heaviest bumps unprecedentedly containing nuance and intricacies that raise the album’s bangers to complex compositions on songs like “Hey Kids (Bumaye)” and “Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix).” These larger-than-life tracks are complimented with some of El’s most beautiful productions like “2100” and “Down.” The latter serves as album opener and is an unexpectedly tame track that features gorgeous synths and what sounds like a filtered guitar strumming at the low end of the mix. The use of this track as the album’s intro is a testament to Run the Jewels’ vision for this album – whereas their previous two albums were simply fantastic displays of their mastery of their craft: focused, vicious production and expert lyricism and flow, RTJ3 (2017) attempts to showcase those skills in addition to their ability to assemble a cohesive and consequential album. The songs on this record are tied to one another closely in sound and theme. Their sequencing is an essential aspect of the project – take away any track, change their order and the album becomes something less and it feels like that is exactly the duo’s intention. The greatest brilliance of this album however lies in its ominous and foreshadowing nature for the dark year that succeeded it. While the album came out digitally Christmas Eve 2016, and had its physical release in the following month, it serves as a soundtrack for 2017 rather effectively. Listening to this album you can feel an unearthing of dark and disgusting secrets. Run the Jewels has developed a notoriety for lambasting the powers that be and with the now lucid display of corrupt politicians and sexual abuse in Hollywood, El-P and Killer Mike’s critiques are in a sense sadly prophetic. RTJ3 (2017) is the duo’s most interesting album musically and perhaps their best showcase of chemistry – but even more importantly it’s a relic of its time. For better or for worse, this record stands as a pointed representation of the unfortunate state of society in 2017.

FAVORITE TRACKS: Down, Talk to Me, Legend Has It, Call Ticketron, Hey Kids (Bumaye), Stay Gold, 2100, Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix), Thursday in the Danger Room, A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters

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