Run the Jewels, "RTJ4" (BMG)

The duo's fourth LP since debuting in 2013 delivers on its promise of timeliness with lyrics about somebody texting "Stay safe" (as 2 Chainz puts it in a guest verse in "Out of Sight") and about the caught-on-tape police brutality that Killer Mike vividly describes in "Walking in the Snow."

"You so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me/ Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, 'I can't breathe,' " he raps, "And you sit there in house on couch and watch it on TV/ The most you give is a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy."

By saying "I can't breathe" in a song recorded months ago, Killer Mike appears somehow to have anticipated one of George Floyd's final sentences; he's also quoting Eric Garner, who died in similarly outrageous circumstances in New York in 2014.

Run the Jewels' music is all about the collision of then and now. The bleak but muscular production, much of it by group member El-P, layers squelching synths over fractured beats in a way that never quite allows you to decide what was programmed and what was played by hand.

At a moment when rap is filled with teenagers vying for supremacy on TikTok, Run the Jewels, two hip-hop vets in their mid 40s, proudly illuminates a more grown-up point of view.

Lyrically, the two seek to lay out how systems put in place yesterday — from redlining to mandatory sentencing to imbalanced access to health care — helped create the injustices we see today. Yet the result is hardly dry or academic: The palpable anger coursing through tracks like "Yankee and the Brave" and "JU$T" — the latter featuring Pharrell Williams and Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha — feels as cleansing as an acid bath.

And fury isn't the only sensation the group articulates on its most emotionally complex album so far. In "Goonies vs. E.T.," El-P raps about the pressures that city life can exert on a romance.

Mikael wood, Los Angeles Times

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