JUNE: RTJ4

Cometh the hour, cometh the album.
Sometimes a record captures a moment in time so perfectly, it becomes a symbol of that moment. I honestly believe that RTJ4 might be one of those records.

I don’t want to be a big review like we normally do, I’d rather we used this as a kicking off point for discussion – this is a ‘free album’ month after all, and we’ll get back to the proper AOTM for July.

But…I was thinking a lot about what Brother Nolan said on our live chat the other week, that he thought it was one of RTJ’s weaker releases. I don’t know about that. I know that I’ve listened to this RTJ’s album more than any other that has come out. BY MILES. Now, maybe it’s the times we’re living in, maybe it feels like even more of a reflection. But this is a lean, mean beast. Clocking in at 39 mins and 11 tracks, it’s the length of an album from the 1960s, not a hip hop album in 2020, which, let’s face it, is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS TOO FUCKING LONG.

That brevity seems to give the Killer Mike and El-P a laser focus, and honestly, I don’t think there’s a wasted moment on this record. No, not every track is out there political. Yes, the conceit of them as two outlaws on the run (referenced on the opening and closing tracks) is a little obvious and they don’t go anywhere with it. Yes, Ooh La La is a total throwback tune (but come on, WHAT a tune).

But seriously, there are four or five cuts on here that are essential to anyone at any time. Guests are used really well – like, they bring something to the table every time. Pharell’s collab (along with a great cameo from Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha) on JUST is as good a thing as he’s done in a long time – what a fucking smart track that is, expressing something complex and angry at the same time, . And a banger too. PULLING THE PIN is straight out astonishing, the addition of Mavis Staples voice adding so much pain and anguish to the track. And the Gangsta Boo tune WALKING IN THE SNOW is, to my mind, as good a track as they have ever made. It’s so angry and articulate and it smacked me sideways when I first heard it.

Basically, I love it. I can’t stop listening to it. It’s gonna be one of my albums of the year. Over to you, brothers…

Clams Casino – Instrumental Relics

I’m not sure if you’ve all come across the name Clams Casino before? He’s a hip-hop producer that while not single-handedly, was massively responsible for huge shifts in the direction of the genre. He produced beats for Lil B, ASAP Rocky and Soulja Boy, yep, a bunch of artists I know next to nothing about or if I am honest care for that much. I remember at the start of this blog a mini-album he released was nearly an AOTM choice form me … I can’t recall why I didn’t choose it.

I’d be lying if I said I’d followed his career closely but he’s continued to produce high quality instrumental hip hop since. And has now gone back to early recordings and mixtape tracks to curate an album of ‘instrumental relics’ including instrumental versions of some of his better known productions for Lil B and Asap Rocky.

The album, given this genesis, is surprisingly coherent. It hangs together beautifully. It’s great for working too. But more than anything for me, it shows how much better his music is than 99.9% of the musical-prozac-blah of the 8hr long spotify instrumental playlists designed for ‘focus’ or ‘study-beat’s etc. This is the sound of an artist blowing most of his peers out of the water.

Here’s a little glimpse into how his music sounds standalone vs. with Lil B …