Pharell Williams’ chorus on “Ju$t” was one of my biggest surprises with the disillusioned “Look at all these slave masters, posing on your dollars.” (1) where he is supported by Zack De La Rocha (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE) who appears to still be in his prime and lays out one of the best verse of the entire album where he shows that he is as angry and fierce as ever, going as far as to question the non-violent approach of Dr King (“How can we be the peace when the beast gonna reach for the worst?”).
But clearly, the best guest of the whole album is without a doubt blues legend Mavis Staple who just crushed everyone else of the chorus from “Pulling The Pin”. If you don’t get chills when she sings “There’s a grenade in my heart and the pin is in their palm”, you are dead inside and there is nothing we can do about that.
And once all of this is checked, comes the most important part : the lyrics. There again, RTJ4 just tears down most of the competition and stis at the very top of the game. Not a single verse is bas, it is an eleven round boxing match that will make you go through all of the possible emotions and reactions (mostly yelling “fuck” every ten seconds). Without every going on the easy path and by perfectly combining their complementary flows and styles, El-P and Killer Mike keep throwing punchline after punchline without weakness and just listing the best ones is a useless task and each track is infinitely quotable.
Whether it’s Killer Mike’s verse on “Walking In The Snow” with the chilling “Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper “I Can’t Breathe”” (2) and where the mood is pure anger, will to live and to exist in front of a machine build to break those who look like him. Or when El-P is getting worried about climate change: “Fuck y’all got, another planet on stash? Far from the fact of the flames of our trash?”, everything is talked about with talent.
The message of this record, through the “Yankee & The Brave” story, is one of revolution. Live free or die. And to pass that message, there is no better last track than “A Few Words For The Firing Squad (Radiation)”, a last scene that see our two heroes deliver two last intense verses just before getting in front of the firing squad. And then the record ends on the theme song for “Yankee & The Brave” which loops into the first track once again, as if this was all a vicious circle that we have to break.
“RTJ4” is a superb record, end of story. It will touch you, haunt you, make you laugh, cry, fill you with anger, calm you down and most importantly will give you enough ammo to destroy the system. Just like it is said in the introduction of the “Ooh La La” music video: one day the long fought battle between humanity and the forces of greed and division will end, and on that day, finally free, we will throw a motherfucking party”. In the meantime, “RTJ4” is the perfect soundtrack to guide you through the current chaos.