Run the Jewels Return with Two Backbreaking New Tracks, “Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” & “Ooh LA LA”

Run the Jewels © 2020
Run the Jewels © 2020
Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike and El-P aren’t heralds or horsemen, but hyenas, cackling madly, ready to crack skulls and make the powers-that-be carrion to their meal in new tracks “Yankee And The Brave (ep. 4)” and “Ooh LA LA”.
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“Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” & “Ooh LA LA” – Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels always seems to emerge around the apocalypse. Killer Mike and El-P aren’t heralds or horsemen but hyenas, cackling madly, ready to crack skulls and make the power-that-be carrion to their meal. They dropped their last full studio release, RTJ3, as a surprise on Christmas morning 2016, shortly after Trump’s election, another watershed moment for fascistic corruption, tepid incompetence, and normal brains nationwide. They called Trump out on his honey-baked ham appearance before it basically became a cliché, “Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan/He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan” on Talk To Me. The band has an odd connection to Christmas too, belying their soft hearts and compassion so often veiled by jackhammer beats and righteous anger.

As fascistic corruption, tepid incompetence, and normal brains once again fail spectacularly to face our moment, Run The Jewels are back with two new tracks: “Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” and “Ooh LA LA,” sneering at the red sun as it threatens to go nova, breaking the pavement with their beats like Goku going Super Saiyan.

Yankee and The Brave - Run the Jewels
Yankee and The Brave – Run the Jewels

“Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” introduces us to Mike and El-P’s mock TV show as the Yankee (El-P, based on his NYC heritage and, presumably, being white) and the Brave (Mike, from The Braves, Atlanta’s baseball team). RTJ confirmed that the song would open RTJ4, and it shares similarities to their previous album openers – an artillery burst through a cinderblock wall saying, “we’re back, motherfuckers,” made explicit in the last lines of the track,

Yankee and the brave are here
Everybody hit the deck
We don’t mean no harm
But we truly mean all the disrespect (four)

“Down” from RTJ3 was a somewhat more somber entrance, followed up as it was by “Talk To Me,” but there’s no such mercy from “Yankee and the Brave.” El-P’s beats are as apocalyptic as ever. They’d crush diamond effortlessly, let alone your subwoofers. Melodically, dissonance dominates the track and makes the relentless rap all the more menacing.

Between explosive, sublimely clever boasts about their return – “Back at it like a crack addict, Mr. Black Magic, crack a bitch back/Chiropractic Craftmatic, big daddy smokin’ big Cali” – RTJ work in their classic rage at the unworking power elite:

All of us targeted, all we doin’ is arguin’
Part of them isn’t workin’ ’til

every pockets been picked
and sold and harvested
I’m ready to mob on these fuckin’ Charlatans

With an entrance this aggro, listeners can only imagine the violence they’ll have for billionaires and their cronies on the album proper.

Run the Jewels © 2020
Run the Jewels © 2020

“Ooh LA LA” followed “Yankee and the Brave” on March 25th, giving us another dose of RTJ for the quarantine. “Ooh LA LA” is a teetering track built on a piano riff that sounds like it was extracted from a broken gramophone, a sample of Greg Nice and DJ Premier’s off-key “Ooh, la la, ah, oui oui,” and El-P’s back breaking beat. This atmosphere adds a brilliant dissonance that accompanies El-P and Mike’s rapping about chaos, with verses vaguely implied to be in a French restaurant – far back in the mix, you can hear Mike and El-P say ,“I need a bottle of Moët, ho, come on. Garcon?

Ooh LA LA - Run the Jewels
Ooh LA LA – Run the Jewels

In “Ooh LA LA,” it’s actually the duo’s flow that grounds the song. The piano staggers drunkenly, repeating its riff in the background, creating space for Mike and El-P to spit over. They take pride in being outlaws, in defying order – and when the order itself is so depraved, it’s the pirates that are the heroes. Their imagery is visceral and full to the brim with out-there references that make the track as worth reading as listening to. Mike starts a verse with “First of all, fuck the fuckin’ law, we is fuckin’ raw/Steak tartare, oysters on the half-shell, sushi bar/Life a bitch, and the pussy fish, still fucked her raw/I’m a dog, I’m a dirty dog, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” and ends it with “Pugilistic, my linguistics are Jeru the Damaja” – not a complete tonal shift, but it’s witty whiplash from pussy puns to linguistics.

There’s no group that can channel the depth of rage, compassion, sadness, and cathartic vindictiveness at this absurd and cruel moment like Run the Jewels.

Expect RTJ4’s drop to be as bombastic as Mike and El-P themselves. Take no imitations.

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“Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” & “Ooh LA LA” – Run the Jewels

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Ooh LA LA - Run the Jewels

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