Preceding the release of RTJ4, lead vocalist Killer Mike had given his now-lauded speech on the state of existence for black Americans and how they must “plot, plan, strategise, organise and mobilise” to overcome their oppression. Though even to the most apathetic of observers it’s clear that he had wanted to say this for a long time, for, as politically-charged albums go, few reach the fury and malcontent that RTJ4 accesses in such abundance.
These are damning tracks of sobering intensity that hold within them an imperious character. Distorted percussion dominates every fragment of RTJ4 and sonically directs the hyper-real journey into America’s social devastation, chronicled by the apocalyptic, at time prophetic, words of Killer Mike and a star-studded array of guests, including Rage Against The Machine’s Zack De La Rocha and Queen of The Stone Ages’ Josh Homme.
RTJ4‘s best moments come in its most destructive. The relentless musical snarl of opener ‘yankee and the brave (ep. 4)’ is gloriously raucous, with Killer Mike describing the 2014 police murder of Eric Garner in a chilling foreshadowing of George Floyd’s death from the same brutality. Meanwhile, ‘The Ground Below’ samples Gang of Four in an excellent genre-fusion that takes influence from the rock-meets-rap experimentations of Ice-T.
Yes, this is an album that is undeniably abrasive and perhaps too combative for some. But such are the strength of the compositions, it’s difficult to stay away from its butchering of the American Dream façade enforced onto and perpetuated by so many. RTJ4 is to be listened to with an immediate demand for aural conflict and social change. And with this mindset, it is a vitally worthwhile backdrop to the events of modern America.