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The Tragedy Of Run The Jewels' 'walking in the snow' Is That History Repeats

For the past seven years, Run the Jewels has urged listeners to stand up and battle all sorts of inequities — with racism and classism at the top of the list. On previous albums, group members Killer Mike and El-P approached it with a scorched earth mentality; throughout RTJ4, they're more thoughtful, although the fire is still ablaze.

On "walking in the snow," Killer Mike unpacks the full spectrum of systemic racism for Black Americans, from the lowered expectations endured through elementary school to the police brutality suffered as adults. He chastises public education as being a pipeline to prison, and derides the apathy that sets in when people of color are beaten and handcuffed on TV. Mike raps: "And everyday on the evening news they feed you fear for free / And 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.'"

Though the perspective resonates at any time, it hit especially upon the album's release in early June. Just a week prior, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The incident sparked outrage in Minneapolis and throughout the world; rioters in the city torched a Target department store and the third precinct station where Chauvin worked. Though "walking in the snow" was recorded in response to Eric Garner's last words, it's sadly still relevant today — a reminder that racism is still rampant and won't dissipate anytime soon.

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Marcus J. Moore