El-P kicks off this snow-themed protest song with a reference to the underground Brooklyn rap group Company Flow, which he co-founded with Mr. Len in 1992.
Get a dose of dirty code to go, been cold since Co-Flow
EL-P has been cold-hearted ever since those early days. This is out of necessity so he can keep communicating his countercultural message without fear of the consequences.
I don't really know how to go slow
Just got done walkin' in the snow
EL-P and Killer Mike take on what they view as the state's oppression of their citizens throughout the rest of the song. During Killer Mike's verse, he attacks police brutality and the continuous media bombardment of these stories. He highlights African-American Eric Garner's last words before dying in New York in July 2014 after a white police officer put him in a chokehold.
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
Killer Mike claims that by concentrating on such tragic events, the viewer is desensitized against the actual issue: discrimination against the African American community.
"I can't breathe" became a rallying cry during demonstrations in the days after Garner's death. Several artists have referenced the phrase in protest songs, including the Russian punk group Pussy Riot
"Walking In The Snow" is a track on Run The Jewels' RTJ4 album. They released the record on June 3, 2020 amid civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. "I can't breathe," were also Floyd's last words before he died, but Killer Mike pointed out he recorded his verse back in November 2019.
That's female rapper Gangsta Boo on the hook. She previously appeared on the RTJ2 track "Love Again (Akinyele Back)" and has also toured with the group.
The Chris Hopewell-directed stop-motion visual depicts Killer Mike and El-P as action figures. Having become a little boy's Christmas present, they are thrust into a toy-populated bedroom city where tyrannical snow soldiers and their ice king are wreaking havoc on the cardboard city's toy residents. The authoritarian forces' use of violence to quell revolt is symbolic of police brutality against Black Americans.
Hopewell, who also directed the music video for RTJ3's "Don't Get Captured," said of the clip: "Everyone was very aware of the gravity of the subject matter and RTJ didn't want to be too obvious or on the nail with the visuals, so we went with an '80s-style fantasy look with evil snow warriors and their icy king oppressing the bedroom toys."