Run the Jewels is one of the most feel-good stories in hip-hop: the musical equivalent of a buddy comedy starring two aging Gen-X rappers who join forces and breathe new life into their art and careers. Michael Render (Killer Mike) and Jaime Meline’s (El-P) four studio albums—each minted instant classics—are the product of a unique, alchemical bond, even as they sought to emulate a long line of rap groups who came before them.

But a remix record is about looking outward, expanding the pool of collaborators, and inviting artists with different POVs to reimagine their work. RTJ CU4TRO trains that focus squarely on Latin America, drawing artists from across the diaspora. The musicians featured here live on the cutting edge while flirting with the mainstream—with one notable exception, the Oscar-winning Broadway megastar Lin-Manuel Miranda. While RTJ CU4TRO isn’t the group’s first remix record, it’s the first that doesn’t feel like a joke. At the center of the project is Brooklyn’s Nick Hook, a frequent Run the Jewels collaborator who helped curate and co-executive produce the album with El-P. The record leans hard on Hook’s collaborative relationships and is as much a result of his taste as the group’s.

RTJ CU4TRO highlights some of the more exciting Latinx artists working in the margins, but it doesn’t really work as a coherent album. With wildly different sounds, the sequence doesn’t have the same flow as the original project; it’s as if one attempted to reassemble a puzzle in the same way, even after all the pieces changed shape. Since the only connective tissue outside of the original material is the amorphous “Latin” category—a commerce-driven catch-all that places often disparate genres under the same umbrella—that inconsistency is somewhat inevitable. It’s the rare Run the Jewels project in which the sum of its parts exceeds the whole.

RTJ CU4TRO may be a collaborative free-for-all, but it still yields some memorable moments. The best ones feel the most transformative, when the connection to the originals is just barely recognizable: Bomba Estéreo’s airy electronic palette pulls “never look back” out of the gutter and into the ether, while cumbia punks Son Rompe Pera continue their relentless campaign to make the marimba sound hard AF on “el suelo debajo.” Perhaps the most surprising is Nick Hook and Danny Brasco’s reinvention of “goonies vs. E.T.,” which pulls a saxophone out of the previously crunchy and chaotic mix, pairing it with a moody new piano melody and a scene-stealing performance from Sarah La Morena.

Others are reshaped by new vocal performances, rather than drastic production changes. Mexican rapper Pawmps heats up Gangsta Boo’s ice-cold hook on “caminando en la nieve” with a nimble-tongued Spanish translation, and Lido Pimienta manages the seemingly impossible, matching Mavis Staples’ intensity from “pulling the pin” with her singular, cacophonous wail on “tirando el detonador.” And while Mexican Institute of Sound’s version of “ooh la la” sounds somewhat sleepy compared to the original, Guanajuato MC Santa Fe Klan’s rolled Rs and aggressive vocal timbre compliment Mike and Jaime’s well enough to wonder what it might have sounded like on the original.

Meline and Hook deserve props for seeking out collaborators from across the diaspora (Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico); even better is the fact that there are Black and brown artists included here, especially in an industry that tends to center white Latinx performers. In that sense, RTJ CU4TRO feels less like co-opting a culture and more like a genuine interest in Latinx artists—a tacit acknowledgement that these perspectives have been missing from what has so far been an intimate collaborative project.

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Run the Jewels: RTJ Cu4tro

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