This album was originally released for free on Christmas day of 2016. I literally downloaded it within an hour of its release, and it’s been sitting on my computer ever since. I hadn’t listened to it until today—October 14, 2019. I honestly have no idea why I never actually listened to it. I think there was a good reason at some point, but I’ve forgotten what it was unfortunately. Anyway, before listening to this project I was expecting it to be great, but not on the same level as the first two RTJ projects. I don’t really know why. I think it probably had something to do with the reception it’d received. I think I remember people saying it wasn’t quite as good as the second one. Maybe that’s why. Anyway, every song is obviously produced by El-P, along with Little Shalimar & Wilder Zoby.
1. Down featuring Joi
I’m just gonna go ahead and say that this is my favorite RTJ album. This shit is fucking incredible, man. It’s so fucking good. I was so happy after I finished listening to it. It’s amazing. Okay, sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll save the verbal dick sucking for my final thoughts. Anyway, this track is a surprisingly lowkey intro to the album. It’s not a super hard-hitting, explosive song. It’s fucking awesome though. The heartfelt and somewhat personal lyricism from Mike on the very first verse is fantastic, and his flow is stellar. The production is top notch too. I fucking love the hook as well; Joi’s backing vocals sound absolutely glorious. This actually sounds a lot like something I’d hear on a solo Killer Mike album. It sounds like R.A.P. Music 2 until El-P comes in. Speaking of El-P, he kinda stole the show to me. That final verse from him is insane. He snapped. His flow was nasty as hell. So yeah, I think the song’s amazing. I love it. It’s dope af.
2. Talk to Me
On my first listen, one thing that really stood out was the smooth transition between the previous track and this one. That ended up being the case for every song though. All of the songs segue into each other really seamlessly. Anyway, as always, the production on this track is fucking fantastic, and Killer Mike fucking killed that first verse. I love the diss towards Donald Trump.
We return from the depths of the badland
With a gun & a knife in our waistband
Went to war with the Devil & Shaytan
He wore a bad toupee & a spray tan
I actually like this song even more than the previous one. Down feels like a prelude to the album, and this song feels like the real intro. I love the #AllLivesMatter diss from Killer Mike too. That shit was great. However, just like with the first song, I actually think El-P had the better performance. Dude fucking spazzed on that second verse.
Brave men didn’t die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you
I didn’t walk uphill both ways to the booth and back to not wild on you
You think baby Jesus killed Hitler just so I’d whisper?
And you’re safe & sound, and these crooks tapped your phone to not have a file on you?
I have no gripes with this song at all. The production is boiling hot fire, and both of the MCs murdered it. This shit is dope af.
3. Legend Has It
I think this is the only song that I’d actually listened to from this album before hearing the full project. I don’t love it quite as much as the preceding couple of tracks, but it’s still fantastic. The way Mike & El-P are trading bars on this track is really fucking dope. The production is great too, but just not as impressive to me as that of the other songs. However, the way it kind of evolves for the final third of the song is a really nice touch. I feel like El-P’s delivery on this track is slightly more aggressive than it usually is. In fact, it really seems like his rapping is more impressive throughout this whole album than it has been in the past, and that’s coming from someone who always loves his rapping. This shit just feels different though. I think it’s mainly his flow. He’s not flowing the same way he used to. It kinda feels like he was trying to match Killer Mike’s level of aggression to an extent.
I became famous for flamin’ you fucks
Maimin’ my way through the brush
There is no training or taming of me and my bruh
Look like a man, but I’m animal raw
My favorite line is probably when he says that he has a unicorn’s horn for a cock. That was tight. So yeah, the song is dope af. Again, I’m not quite as amazed by this song as I was by the others, but I still love it.
4. Call Ticketron
The production on this song is fucking awesome. It kinda gave me the same feeling that I got the first time I heard songs like Oh My Darling Don’t Cry and Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1. The first couple of verses from El & Mike are really good, and I love the hook despite its simplicity. Even though I really enjoyed the first couple of verses, they really stepped up for the next two verses. I loved this couplet from El-P…
It’s a daily lick, I slit throats with a grin that reek of pure shit
Travel by backflip, eat from the river, the panther heart taught to talk by smart chicks
As much as I love these verses, the final two verses are somehow even better. These motherfuckers destroyed this shit, man. Mike’s flow on the penultimate verse was fucking bananas, and El-P snapped on that last verse too. I have zero complaints with this song. This shit is boiling hot fire. It’s dope af.
5. Hey Kids (Bumaye) featuring Danny Brown
Believe it or not, this track actually ended up being my least favorite song on the album even though it features one of my favorite rappers. I still like it a lot though. I just don’t think it’s as great as most of the other songs personally. The production is cool, but it didn’t blow me away like the other beats did. I do like how the content of this track is more political than that of the preceding material. The first verse from Killer Mike is fantastic. His flow is great. Unfortunately I don’t really care for the hook of this song. It’s not bad, but whenever a song features children’s vocals I almost always end up disliking it. It’s tolerable on this track thankfully, but I would prefer if it was different. El-P’s verse isn’t really as impressive to me as Killer Mike’s verse is, but I do love the line about the pope being a pederast. That was great. I think Danny Brown’s verse was really cool, but not amazing or anything. He fits perfectly over the Electronic influenced production, and I love the line about him parting your neck when he arches the tech. That shit is hard. It’s a dope song. It just didn’t blow me away like I wanted it to. The production and hook are really the two aspects that I think could’ve improved more, but it’s still a really good track. I fuck with it.
6. Stay Gold
I think this track easily has the hardest beat on the album up to this point. It reminds me of Oh My Darling Don’t Cry. I think the hook is pretty tight, but the content of the song doesn’t really interest me that much unfortunately. The first couple of verses are cool though. The instrumental embellishments that come in during the second recital of the hook kinda remind me of The Cold Vein actually—particularly Vein. Anyway, the way they both rap on the final few verses is far more impressive to me than the first couple. They really stepped it up, and the subject matter kinda changed. The way they flip the word “gold” is really cool. I love the song. It’s not as amazing as some of my other favorite tracks, but it’s still top notch stuff. This shit is dope af.
7. Don’t Get Captured
This is actually another one of the weaker songs on the album in my opinion, but I still really like it. The production is really dope; it’s more melodic than most of the other instrumentals. The first verse from Mike was great, and I love the scratches on the hook. The second verse in which El-P raps from the perspective of a crooked police officer is really cool too. It’s not the first time it’s been done, but I think he executed it pretty well. The song is definitely good. I don’t even really have any real issues with it. It just doesn’t stand out much to me, especially compared to the other songs on the album. I fuck with it though. It’s dope.
8. Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost) featuring Tunde Adebimpe co-produced by Boots
This is the point in the album where they really just went into God mode. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. I really like how the song starts with that first verse from Mike in which he’s rapping at a relatively slow pace. His flow sounds awesome. In terms of the actual content, this is my favorite song up to this point on the album. The grim lyrics about police brutality are super well written. El-P’s verse is awesome.
You strike ’em down, they still live inside hearts, hearts carry them
Some get to count sheep, some gotta count kids that they burying
Fear’s been law for so long that rage feels like therapy
Nobody gets no more sleep ’til we teach them remembering
This shit is crazy. The hook is fantastic too. The final two verses are somehow even better though. They really stepped it up. It’s insane. El-P raps from the perspective of a news reporter on the scene of a protest, and it’s amazing.
So many years of this violence
Now we’re surrounded by the souls of the dead and defiant
Saying, “Look what you’ve done, you designed it”
When the bough breaks, hear the wraith scream, “riot”
Then the perspective switches for the next verse from Killer Mike, who raps from the perspective of one of the protesters. I fucking love how he tore Don Lemon’s ass apart.
CNN got dummy Don on the air
Talking ’bout he smell that ganj’ in the air
Dummy don’t know and dummy don’t care
Get that punk motherfucker outta here
This track really captures the tension of the Ferguson protests super well. It’s incredible. The vocals on the bridge from Tunde Adebimpe are great, but I was already sold on the song by the time I got to that part on my first listen. This shit is absolutely stunning. I fucking love it. It’s dope af.
9. 2100 featuring Boots
On my initial listen of the album, this is the point where I’d noticed that the album had taken a very serious turn, starting around track 7. This song in particular was released the day after the 2016 United States presidential election, but I didn’t listen to it at the time. I guess I was still in shock, so I wasn’t listening to anything being released around that period. Anyway, the production on this track is really gorgeous, and the first couple of verses from Mike & El-P are really great. The opening question from Mike is the perfect response to the election.
How long before the hate that we hold leads us to another Holocaust?
The hook from Boots is really fantastic as well. I always love his work with Run the Jewels. I hope they continue making music together in the future. The final two verses are pretty short, but I think they’re a great way to finish the song.
Seen the devil give a sermon in the church
Seen an angel dancing in the club
Tryin’ to feed a baby so I threw a thousand in the air
And blessed her with a hug
The song is awesome. It’s definitely another one of my favorites. I love it. It’s dope af.
10. Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix) featuring Trina
When I first read this song in the tracklist and saw who it was featuring, I was afraid that it’d just be Love Again, Pt. 2. Trina is easily the most random feature on the album, and if I’m being completely honest I don’t think her inclusion was really necessary. It’s fine though. It’s definitely not an issue. It just caught me off guard. Anyway, the first verse from El-P on this song is fucking stellar. He “caught wreck.” That’s a new slang term I learned from New Yorkers recently. I mean, it’s definitely not new. It’s new to me though. Anyway, I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the production on this track is steaming hot fiya. I even think the hook from Trina was pretty cool. As I kind of insinuated earlier, it’s not really something that they couldn’t have done themselves, but it’s still good. The final verse from Killer Mike is superb.
Who thought the son of Denise would be the leader of people?
When he was your house at Morehouse, slangin’ pounds of the reefer
Sat with potential presidents and said the p should be legal as reparations
For what this nation has done to my people
I love it. AGAIN, this shit is absolutely phenomenal. I know I’ve been saying this a lot, but this is another one of my favorites. It’s dope af.
11. Everybody Stay Calm
The very first verse from El-P on this song contains what is quite possibly my favorite line on the entire album. It’s the closest he comes to recapturing the magic of his legendary “field of dicks” bar from RTJ2.
I’m a nut punch wizard
Speed bag your ball bag; leave none in it
This man is a fucking genius, bro. I love it. Anyway, the beat on this track is awesome, and the way they trade verses over it is really fucking cool. The hook is really simplistic and gets the fuck outta the way quickly, similar to the All Due Respect hook from RTJ2. I think the song is really great, but the production is admittedly a bit repetitive. It’s not one of my favorite tracks, but it’s far from my least favorite. I think it’s dope af.
12. Oh Mama
The production on this track is absolutely godly, and the first verse from Mike is stellar. The way the following verse from El-P starts is uhh… It… I’ll use the word “shocking.” I think that’s the best way to describe it.
“Notice me, senpai!” they cry when I choke their speak
I’ll set this crooked city on fire to light the smokery
Old timers speak of us hushed and clutch their rosaries
I lust after greatness, I’m aiming right at its ovaries
I’m starting to become infamous for my anti-weeb rhetoric on social media, but I have to admit that this is an awesome verse. He killed that shit. I love it. The sung hook from El-P also sounds surprisingly good to me as well. The penultimate verse from Mike is really great, but El-P fucking spazzed on that last one.
I heard it in Brooklyn where all the sinners stay
You running out of ways to go fuck yourself, I will innovate
The skin of your shitty grin will disintegrate
Every sickening sentence’ll cheapen them tricks you venerate
This shit is fucking amazing. It’s yet another one of my favorite tracks on the album. Shit is dope af.
13. Thursday in the Danger Room featuring Kamasi Washington
I know I’ve been saying this for a lot of these tracks, but this is actually one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s probably top 3. Definitely top 5 at least. The production is absolutely stunning. The first verse from El-P about his dying friend—most likely Camu Tao—is incredibly sad, but super well written.
Grown up so much and I wonder
Who you’d’ve become if you stuck for a while
Just know that I love you, good friend
Ain’t forget you, and when I remember I smile
The saxophone contribution from Kamasi Washington that comes in during the hook is magnificent, but I will say that I kinda wish he played a bigger role in the song. He probably should’ve been given a solo at the end, similar to what Terrace Martin did on Lupe Fiasco’s Body of Work. I still love what he ended up doing on the song though. This is easily one of the best tracks on the album in terms of the actual instrumental. Anyway, I don’t know how Killer Mike managed to pull this off, but I actually think his verse is just as if not more emotional than that of El-P. He also rapped about a deceased friend, but this time the cause of death was murder. He directly addresses his friend’s killer and says that he hopes he changed for the better so that he doesn’t have to live a life of crime anymore. It’s crazy. The opening couplet is ingenious to me.
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for the tooth
Will leave us all mumbling and blind
It’s a really moving song, and definitely the most cathartic track on the album. It’s the emotional climax of the record. I love it. It’s dope af.
14. A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters featuring Zack de la Rocha
This is my favorite track on the album. I guess some people might think I’m cheating because it’s two songs included in one track, but fuck it. This is my favorite one. It’s fucking amazing. The production is absolutely insane. The first verse from El-P is stupendous, but Killer Mike’s is even better to me.
Choose the lesser of the evil people, and the devil still gon’ win
It could all be over tomorrow, kill our masters and start again
But we know we all afraid, so we just simply cry and march again
At the Dem’ Conven’ my heart broke apart when I seen them march mamas in
As I rap this verse right now, got tears flowing down my chocolate chin
Told the truth and I’ve been punished for it; must be a masochist ’cause I done it again
It reminds me a lot of the way the first album ended with A Christmas Fucking Miracle. Actually, now that I think about it, all of their albums always have amazing outros. Even if this song just ended after the second verse it’d probably be my favorite track, but they take it even further by transitioning into Kill Your Masters, which has a marvelous beat. It actually sounds uh… Apocalyptic? Does that make sense? Can a beat sound apocalyptic? Basically what I’m trying to see is that it sounds really grandiose and tense at the same time. The hook is pretty simplistic, but it’s dope. The next couple of verses from El-P & Mike are great, but man… That final verse from Zack de la Rocha was the best surprise ever. They didn’t credit him as a feature, so nobody knew he was on the song. I mean, by the time I finally listened to the album it was obviously common knowledge amongst fans, but I thankfully didn’t read any reviews or look the song up on Genius, so it was still a surprise to me, and boi… This motherfucker annihilated that last verse. Man, it’s getting to the point where I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t featured on RTJ4. His verse was the icing on this delicious cake of an album. He fucking snapped. I love it. This shit is sizzling hot fiya. It’s dope af.
This album is amazing. Again, it’s my favorite Run the Jewels album to date. It really just made me even more excited for Run the Jewels 4. I wasn’t really thinking about the fourth one that much before I heard this one, which I guess makes sense since I always knew I had this left over to listen to. Anyway, this is definitely the heaviest album they’ve released in terms of content. There’s a lot of very sad, deep, political shit here. It makes sense though. This was released months after the election of Donald Trump. Shit was fucked up in America. I mean, obviously it still is. It felt like it was getting more and more fucked up around that time though, and it all culminated in something we all thought wouldn’t happen. Of course we now know that we were naive to have faith in our country and that most Americans are insanely stupid closeted bigots, but it was a shock at the time. Even if you just disregard the content, the production is amazing, the flows are better than ever, and the features are all great. I have barely any nitpicks. There’s not a single dull moment on the album. I think it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard from 2016. It’s dope af.
Favorite Song: A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters
Least Favorite Song: Hey Kids (Bumaye)
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.