Review by Jason Klaiber
Recommended Tracks: “Down,” “2100,” “Thursday in the Danger Room”
RIYL: Public Enemy, Ice Cube
Run the Jewels 3 refuses to part from its fresh, hard-hitting sound upon each successive listen. In typical fashion for this veteran duo, their latest record’s early release felt akin to a battering ram busting through a doorway. With no present signs of this effort losing that touch or markedly showing any cracks on its surface, it could more than reasonably ascend the ranks to become the pair’s definitive album in due time. It’s worthy of a reception level on par with its predecessor at the very least. Whereas the inclusion of the slightly unsavory “Love Again” on Run the Jewels 2 might have been too off-putting for some listeners, the fourteen tracks on Run the Jewels 3 don’t pose as much inaccessibility lyric-wise, but everything here still manages to preserve the unrestrained attitude pivotal in the identity of Run the Jewels. That absence of subtlety has more to do with the biting overarching messages presented rather than blatant word choice this time around, however.
Another Run the Jewels signature: each rousing track on this offering flows seamlessly into the next. The opener, entitled “Down,” starts with what reminded me of a lower-pitched dial-up tone, which quickly blooms into an atmospheric gem with an ear-catching hook. “Down” transitions into “Talk to Me,” which hasn’t lost any of its flair since being handed to the public as the album’s lead single in early November. “Call Ticketron” is clear evidence of Killer Mike’s versatility, his third verse taking on a Big Boi-esque flow. In the thick of the album, Danny Brown and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe bring the best their distinctive voices can offer to their respective feature spots.
“How long before the hate that we hold lead us to another Holocaust?” questions Killer Mike to break the ice on the timely and magnificent “2100,” a surefire highlight aided by a booming beat and soaring vocals from BOOTS.
The penultimate track on Run the Jewels 3, the emotion-stirring “Thursday in the Danger Room,” enlists the help of Kamasi Washington and his sorrowful saxophone wailing—in conjunction with peak-level verses from El-P and Killer Mike—to produce what just might be the greatest-ever Run the Jewels creation.
In a similar vein to Public Enemy’s revolutionary “Fight the Power,” the second part of “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters” ends its mother album in the most frenetic of ways and serves as a call to action, assisted in no small part by Zack de la Rocha’s incendiary though uncredited closing verse. In that respect, this 51-minute thrill ride of an album, in all of its non-stop, vexed glory, might as well cement Killer Mike and El-P as well-deserving successors to Public Enemy’s celebrated role as rebels without pause buttons.
As the duo showed last year with the frivolous but still impressive Meow the Jewels, they can do no wrong, but on Run the Jewels 3, their exemplary abilities have never been more clear.