Run the Jewels and Flying Lotus shore up their hip-hop reputations 

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Two pioneers on the experimental edge of hip-hop and avant R&B, Run the Jewels and Flying Lotus, have watched newcomers push the frontiers of the weird over the past year.

Both have new works that take on contenders, with Run the Jewels’ RTJ4 (BMG) being the brashest. Every track by Killer Mike and El-P feels like it could have been written in the George Floyd era. Adding incendiary pals like Zack de la Rocha and Pharrell Williams (in “JU$T”) insures the politics are always front and center. Yet what makes the album stand out is the strange horror-house atmosphere infusing songs like “Goonies vs. E.T.” and the ominous saxophone in the album’s closer, “A Few Words for the Firing Squad.”

Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) had a less radical agenda for Flamagra [Instrumentals] (Boomkat), which reimagines the 27 tracks of his May 2019 Flamagra as a suite of neo-jazz space instrumentals. The vocal-free album allows the compositional complexity to shine through, though the original release already was heavily instrumental. Streaming platforms have released the two albums as Flamagra Deluxe.


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