New American Songbook: Run the Jewels

Jan 17, 2017

On the latest release from hip hop duo Run the Jewels, every track is a fist, held in the air, raised in resistance, or a jaw-crushing volley thrown in service of the revolution.

It’s no surprise that the reclusive underground legend Zack de la Rocha shows up for a second appearance on this album—there hasn’t been music this targeted and direct since his former band Rage Against the Machine released "Killing In The Name Of." This is not subtle music, but it is artful and beautiful.

But let’s not lose track—this is a pragmatic soundtrack to a riot, as much instruction manual as it is legacy hip hop. The stakes are set on the very first verse, and if you are even casually familiar with Run the Jewels’ previous work, you can hear the shift in intensity already. Hip hop is always immediate and timely, but Run the Jewels 3 is anticipatory. You will need this music, and sooner rather than later.

Sometime ago we became soft, consumers of music that was in reality just people playing at music. We convinced ourselves that there was political music, and also music that was just nice to listen to. It’s a comfortable lie, but a lie nonetheless—all music is always already political, even if it’s the politics of sticking your head in the sand. Run the Jewels 3 returns music to the realm of politics, which is to say, explicit humanity, fully realized, relevant and ready to flip the tables in the temple. You’re more than welcome to come along.

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