Remixes hold a strange place in my heart. I tend to avoid them when they’re based on songs I know, as they don’t typically live up to the quality of the original. I more often will listen to a remix of a song I don’t know, sometimes without ever bothering to listen to the original due to the strength of the remix.
Run the Jewels’ newest release is mostly filled with examples of the latter. “RTJ CU4TRO,” not only remixes one of their songs but overhauls the entirety of their previous album, “RTJ4,” employing Latin American artists to put their own spin on each track.
It opens on “yankee y el valiente,” TROOKO’s remix of “yankee and the brave.” This is one of few songs on the album where I was familiar with the original version. It maintains much of the same feeling but adds numerous percussion instruments and a piano bassline.
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Run the Jewels’ distinctive sound fits well with this remix. The hard-hitting percussion beat of the original is fleshed out by shakers and bongos and the piano line adds some melodic interest, which is almost completely absent in the original.
“goonies contra E.T.” opens up the texture, with a less busy beat than Run the Jewels are known for. Danny Brasco and Nick Hook’s production is dynamic and engaging, using complex, layered percussion and floating, ethereal saxophone.
Sarah La Morena and El Individuo also newly appear on this song to perform background vocals and Spanish rap verses. Run the Jewels’ sound is made by their intense, in-your-face rap style. These featured artists keep up with the duo effortlessly, arguably outdoing them at their own game.
“JU$T” utilizes a taste of Latin jazz in its beat with a consistent piano montuno providing harmony over the percussion, a combination of Latin and trap drums. Horn harmonies come in under the pre-chorus and chorus for extra texture.
The beat lays back here, fitting well with the instrumentation and adding a bit of swing. The trap drums, although stylistically contiguous with Run the Jewels, sound somewhat out of place here. To further detail the acoustic drums and mix them as the main percussive beat would have created a more coalesced sound and, in my opinion, a more interesting one.
Bomba Estéreo makes an appearance on “nunca mirar hacia atrás” with their production. As one of the most well-known of the remixing artists, expectations were high for Bomba Estéreo’s take on “never look back.” Unfortunately, their production is among the most boring on the album.
The beat feels flat and stagnant, not matching Run the Jewels’ level of intensity despite their relatively muted affect on this song. Run the Jewels’ part is also one of the less compelling efforts of the album, lacking the energy listeners are used to.
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Finally comes “unas palabras para el pelotón de fusilamiento (radiación).” Easily the most varied of the album’s songs, the nearly-seven-minute track features instrumental interludes, Mexican waltz and a short story read in Spanish by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
It begins in classic Run the Jewels fashion with a slow, building beat that gradually adds synths, saxophone and cajon. It transitions into a guitar-filled instrumental breakdown punctuated by wailing saxophone which builds similarly, changing once more under Miranda’s story and El Producto’s verse.
Despite my general wariness towards remixes, I found much of “RTJ CU4TRO” to be enjoyable and interesting. It has its slow moments for sure, but the influence of Latin American artists fits well with Run the Jewels’ typical sound. Hopefully, this work will inspire other artists to similar endeavors such that they might go the extra distance to create something great.
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