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Think Protest Music Is History? Run The Jewels Have Something to Tell You

"Dick Gregory told me a couple of secrets before he laid down in his grave / All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin' but slaves / Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state"

Musician, entrepreneur and activist Mike Render, better known by his rapper name “Killer Mike,” has his finger on the pulse of America as much as anybody writing today. However, if you don’t like aggresive, rock-influenced rap music, you are unlikely to have heard his lyrics. Below, we reprint the words to his prescient new song with his group Run The Jewels which was recorded before George Floyd’s death and released on the band’s new album, Run The Jewels 4, just after that watershed moment.

On the genesis of the song from Vox: “’Walking in the Snow,” the song that Killer Mike previewed a week before RTJ4’s release, is a standout that’s most remarkable in how it pins down this moment in time, even before this moment came to pass. “I can’t breathe,” Mike gasps out, hoarse like he’s resisting a chokehold. According to El-P, the song was written last fall in reference to Eric Garner, a black man from Staten Island who was killed in 2014 by a police officer who restrained him with an illegal chokehold. Garner’s death marked an early inflection point in the Black Lives Matter movement, and its reference here is a shocking reminder of how far we haven’t come in the six years since.”

[Listen to the song in the embedded YouTube video below.]

walking in the snow

Get a dose a dirty code to go, been cold since Co-Flow
I got a wire or two unlodgin’, I’ll set a fire down below
Get a dose a dirty code to go, been cold since Co-Flow
I got a wire or two unlodgin’, I’ll set a fire down below
I’ll hang it up when you say, “Sorry, I didn’t know”
Prolly got a year or ten to go so lets go
I don’t really know how to go slow
Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker’s cold (ay)
You in the wrong mode, you open and closin’ your hole, it’s a no go
This whole world’s a shit moat, filled to the brim like GitMo
When you think it don’t get mo’ glow it limbo ’til the sticks on flo’
All oppression’s born of lies, I don’t make the rules, I’m just one guy
All due respect, if getting spit on’s how respect is now defined
Hungry for truth but you got screwed and drank the Kool-Aid, there’s a line
It end directly at the edge of a mass grave, that’s their design
Funny fact about a cage, they’re never built for just one group
So when that cage is done with them and you’re still poor, it come for you
The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used
You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too (oops)
Pseudo-Christians, y’all indifferent
Kids in prisons ain’t a sin? Shit
If even one scrap a what Jesus taught connected, you’d feel different
What a disingenuous way to piss away existence, I don’t get it
I’d say you lost your Goddamn minds if y’all possessed one to begin with

Funny fact about a cage, they’re never built for just one group
So when that cage is done with them and you’re still poor, it come for you
The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used
You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too (oops)
Pseudo-Christians, y’all indifferent
Kids in prisons ain’t a sin? Shit
If even one scrap a what Jesus taught connected, you’d feel different
What a disingenuous way to piss away existence, I don’t get it


Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker cold
Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker cold
Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker cold
Just got done walkin’ in the snow
Goddamn, that motherfucker cold (cold, cold)

Yeah, ho, Gangsta Boo, Run the Jewels
We back on our shit, and it’s cold as fuck

The way I see it you’re probably freest from the ages one to four
Around the age of five you’re shipped away for your body to be stored
They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores
And they predictin’ prison population by who scoring the lowest
And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me
And everyday on evening news they feed you fear for free
And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty, you’ve been robbed of your empathy
Replaced it with apathy, I wish I could magically
Fast forward the future so then you can face it
And see how fucked up it’ll be

And everyday on evening news they feed you fear for free
And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty, you’ve been robbed of your empathy
Replaced it with apathy, I wish I could magically
Fast forward the future so then you can face it
And see how fucked up it’ll be

I promise I’m honest, they coming for you
The day after they comin’ for me
I’m readin’ Chomsky, I read Bukowski
I’m layin’ low for a week
I said somethin’ on behalf of my people
And I popped up in Wikileaks
Thank God that I’m covered, the devil come smothered
And you know the evil don’t sleep
Dick Gregory told me a couple of secrets before he laid down in his grave
All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin’ but slaves
Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state

[chorus]

Run The Jewels: Killer Mike (left) and El-P

Who really wanna run it with the Jewel Runners?
Go hellfire hot in a new sauna
It’s a cold winter baby and a cruel summer
I suicide bomb in the blue Hummer
And emerge out the side, not a bruise on ’em
Bad news come in two son, do somethin’
Treat beats like a wet thigh, chew on ’em
Got a stroke row crew on ’em, move on ’em
We be the heroes, the breakers of chains and the busters of locks (locks, locks)
You be them suckers supportin’ them snitches that talk to the cops
This the Illmatic of turning your face in to fucker foie gras
I’m not so sure opportunities knocking, it’s probably the law
Word to the old school tape decks
I get Radio Raheem respect
My Nike pendant sacred, similar to the Ghostface bracelet
Fire in the hole, oh no joke
Probably go broke just off smoke
Fuck are we gonna do, not smoke?
Get a job, play the role, be adults?
Nah, I’ma do me, arigato

First of all, they cheated (uh-huh)
‘Cause if one of them black and the other one white (uh-huh)
So if you don’t like ’em, you automatically racist (ah, oh, well)

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