Run the Jewels: Which Is Their Best Album?
With their latest album, Run the Jewels 4 dropping in June 2020, the rave reviews have been flying around.
Run the Jewels are pretty much the saviours of hip hop. Their intense sound mixes social activism, dark humour and some of the baddest head nodding-est beats this side of hip hop’s golden era.
If you’ve never heard of Run the Jewels then, seriously, go get to know. They’ve dropped four albums of pure fucking fire and if you like hip hop in any capacity, you need to hear these guys.
Oh and pretty much every video they ever produce is nuts and worth popping on the Chromecast on loop.
Made up of producer/rapper El-P and Killer Mike (who you may also have seen on Netflix’s Trigger Warning), RTJ (as they’re known) are like the cool uncles at the hip hop party.
With four epic albums to choose from, the question on everyone’s lips is, which is the best Run the Jewels album?
Well, I’m gonna answer that in the form of interpretive dance.
I jest. It’s just a blog post.
To make something clear before we dig in…. Every single one of RTJ’s albums is 5 star easily. There isn’t a weak link in the catalogue, so if you’ve never heard them before, start at RTJ 1 and see how you get sucked in.
So, this is the chronological album reviews for each of the RTJ albums – at the end you’ll know which is the best Run the Jewels album.
Run the Jewels 1
Opening with the eponymously titled tune, there was no doubt that these boys meant business. Genetically, the sound of RTJ 1 aligns pretty closely to El-P’s last solo album, Cancer for Cure.
Although the stand-out track is probably the first one, the whole album sucks you in and chews you up. Bangers like Sea Legs and Banana Clipper keep the head nodding. Tonally, the lyrics are dark and humorous with a touch of the social commentary that will become more dominant as the series progresses.
RTJ 1 is a fucking banger, but (this might get me shot by some RTJ fans), I rate El-P’s Cancer for Cure album as slightly better. There ain’t much in it though.
Run the Jewels 2
OK, here we fucking go. For me this is where RTJ hit their stride, and oh my days do they. The album barely lets up from the go, with some tunes to make you punch holes in walls.
Personally I’m still brocking out to tunes like Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Lie Cheat Steal and Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck). That last one features Zack de la Rocha (who crops up a lot in El-P’s projects) and is about where their social commentary gets real.
Oh, and Love Again is how all sex tunes should be done. Dirty beat, dirty lyrics and a verse from a woman too…. Yes.
If there is a weak link in the album, it’s probably the second to last tune, Crown. I’m not even sure what the lyrics are cos I usually skip it.
Run the Jewels 3
Spoiler alert. This is, for me at least, peak Run the Jewels. This album. Fucking. BANGS.
It starts deceptively gently, with the track Down which features a head nodding beat and a nice hook, “I coulda died y’all… Couple times I took my eyes off the prize y’all”. As an intro tune, I like it and actually think it sets up the album well, because… Well, fuck…
Literally every track gets bigger and better throughout. The best track on the album is probably Legend Has It (epic video too, check it). But that’s no slur on any other entry here.
Hey Kids with Danny Brown – bangs. Stay Gold – bangs. Panther like Panther – fucking bangs hard.
You get it, right. RTJ 3 is fire. It’s a hard one to beat.
Run the Jewels 4
This album kinda saved 2020 for me. Released just after the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, preceded by the opening tunes Yankee and the Brave and Ooh La La which are the first two tracks on the album. RTJ 4 was quickly praised universally as the best Run the Jewels album.
Those two opening tracks certainly punch you right in the head and make you go, ‘Oh shit, here we go again’.
There is no doubt that the production by El-P is fucking peak. He just doesn’t know how to take his foot off the brake. And the lyrics on RTJ4 are poignant, especially on Walking in the Snow, which had an eerily prescient vision of the death of George Floyd which sparked the BLM riots.
But, I’m sorry El-P and Mike, RTJ4 doesn’t top number 3 or even number 2 for me. It’s still an incredible album and I’m still listening to it over a month after it came out. But, I always go back to 2 or 3 to get my real RTJ fix.
So, for the record. The best Run the Jewels albums, in order according to me:
- RTJ 3
- RTJ 2
- RTJ 4
- RTJ 1
There it is. Fight me.
Check out Run The Jewels
Words by Oli Lynch
Oli used to be a DJ but got bored of it and now spends his time listening to other DJs. You can check out rants and opinions on his blog over at olilynch.com.
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