2016, Music

Run the Jewels 3 (2016)

Not only have I never heard the first two albums, I’m not sure I’d even heard anything by RTJ before listening to this. I knew very little about them, save for maybe one member’s name.

It’s rare for me to listen to hip hop and understand immediately why it appeals to people. Usually, it’s an intellectual exercise, where I listen to the production, trying to spot loops and samples (especially samples I recognize), and the artistry therein. And I may or may not pay lots of attention to the words too (it often depends on the mix and/or the rapper). But, mostly, I’m listening to the production to see if I can grasp the creativity. Occasionally, there’s a beat or hook that connects with me, but mostly I listen to this stuff as an observer.

Almost immediately, their sound is distinct and feels urgent, for lack of a better word. The production here sounds nothing like rock music – it is absolutely, obviously only hip hop – but it has the immediacy I associate with some rock music. I get why people listen to this and it pumps them up, viscerally, something I can’t say about a lot of hip hop. I can’t tell you why that is exactly – I feel like I’ve heard plenty of hip hop that tries to do this and doesn’t do it for me – but it works.

And of course I understand the appeal of lyrics like this, especially in 2016 America. I don’t actually know, but it does feel like overtly political hip hop was kind of uncool for a bit, or at least commercially not super viable, and it definitely makes this feel refreshing to me (not that I know what people rap about) because it feels like so much of the hip hop I am exposed to is about the usual things, sex, money and, lately, fame. And I just don’t care for music that obsesses over that stuff, usually. So this feels vital lyrically as well.

Honestly, just very, very impressed. I get the hype.

8/10

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