Review: Run the Jewels 3 is a Christmas Miracle

Written by Christian Bischoff

“I told you on RTJ 1 / then I told you again on RTJ 2 / and you still ain’t believe me / so here we go / RTJ 3.”– Killer Mike, “Talk to Me”

Like a Christmas miracle, Run the Jewels released their latest LP for free a full three weeks earlier than previously announced. In their third full length album, El-P and Killer Mike sink into the authority they garnered with their first two releases. If Run the Jewels 2 proved the duo was a force to be reckoned with, then 3 is a declaration of power. The flashy beats of 2 are missing from this record; instead, deep base, heavy drum, and broken down synth keep pace with an onslaught of rhyme from two of the hardest rappers in the game.

In the two year hiatus between RTJ albums, the United States have changed dramatically. From the Ferguson riots to the recent presidential election, the political landscape has shifted undeniably in ways America hasn’t seen before. Mike and El have never been shy about their political leanings. Mike interviewed Bernie Sanders during the presidential race, and El’s early release of “2100” in response to the election results condemns the bigotry that bubbled to the surface throughout the race. (Killer Mike’s “How long before the hate that we hold leads us to another holocaust”) Run the Jewels 3 is an album for an America in flux.

As always, the pair pull no punches. Mike and El use their astounding lyricism to bludgeon societal issues into submission. There’s no worry of mixed metaphors here- Run the Jewels goes for the jugular. On “Talk to Me,” Killer Mike jumps from indictments of American politics (“Went to war with the devil and shaytan / he wore a bad toupee and a spray tan.”) to the Black Lives Matter movement (“Born black that’s dead on arrival / my job is to fight for survival in spite of these all lives matter ass white folk.”) As on RTJ 2, the acrobatic nature of their bars is impressive, capable of flexing and condemning corruption all at once (El on “Hey Kids”- “I’m the fucking tits/hold no regard for no fucking myths/I lived half my life to give half my cash to these half man imps/they got half a heart they give half a fuck they got half the guns.”)

The album is relentless. Each track builds seamlessly into the next, and El –P’s phenomenal production keeps the record hot for the entirety of its 14 track runtime. The album isn’t a showcase, it’s a reminder. There’s a reason RTJ commands respect from fellow rappers. Both El-P and Killer Mike have their versatile flow on display (see Mike’s last verse on “Call Ticketron” or El-P’s treatise on making love to nuns in “Panther Like a Panther”). The stakes don’t feel high – the pair have already proven themselves. On 3, they’re settling into a throne hard won and well deserved, making their lines feel effortless.

Rating: 9/10

Run the Jewels 3 is currently streaming on Spotify, and is available at Apple Music.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.