RJD2 - Topic

Dead Ringer Play

His debut LP for Definitive Jux, DJ/producer RJD2's Dead Ringer is a deeply creative and musically poignant hip-hop record for summer 2002. Creating a raging underground listenership from a series of 45s and white labels and being the only non-MC signed to Def Jux, RJD2's talent as a DJ and as producer, to match beats and lay cult/pop gems over dusty soul tracks, is paralleled only by people like DJ Shadow and Z-Trip. However, his ability to record and marry MCs to his primarily instrumental and sample-based style is evidenced in outstanding tracks with Copywrite and Blueprint as well as his legacy with the MHz crew; at the end of day that puts our man from Ohio ahead of his primarily one-dimensional peer group. This set will stand out as monumental for Definitive Jux, who with their first record outside of the New York MC box continues to stride toward really being definitive in their roster and catalog of independent hip-hop. ~ Nic Kincaid, Rovi

The Third Hand Play

Give Rjd2 credit -- he certainly couldn't have moved from undie rap to indie pop without believing in the music he's making. It's no wonder he felt he had to move from Definitive Jux, the home of Aesop Rock and Murs, to XL, the home of Thom Yorke and Lemon Jelly, to have any hope of being taken seriously. And while there's no hint of hip-hop anywhere here, The Third Hand is a surprisingly natural mix of his beat-heavy productions and kaleidoscopic tastes with reflective songwriting and plaintive vocals. Sample spotters beware, everything on the record was written, produced, and most importantly, performed by Rjd2 in his home studio. So, after the gigantic mind shift required to reflect on a record that needs to be compared to Broadcast rather than Blueprint, it has to be admitted that Rjd2 is onto something here. His vocals are thin but tuneful, and he has a knack for good harmonies. His productions still overwhelm the songs, reflecting the requirements of hip-hop instead of pop, but they're far better than what's found on the majority of indie pop records. Two skills he has mastered in the past, mood and texture, make this record especially good; witness the transitions from the quiet short-form piece "Someday" into the wide-ranging instrumental "The Bad Penny" into the highlight of the record, "Beyond the Beyond." [An instrumental version of the album also appeared in 2007.] ~ John Bush, Rovi

More Is Than Isn't Play

With his debut album Dead Ringer offering nothing but addictive, gritty, busy, sample-heavy hip-hop of the head-bobbing variety, U.S. producer RJD2 found himself in a Catch 22, something like damned if he grew and damned if he didn't. It's not as if his music was ignored or avoided because of that beloved debut, but "not Dead Ringer" was a phrase heard too often, right til his 2010 effort The Colossus welcomed a new crop of fans. As such, More Is Than Isn't is a "not The Colossus" effort as the strength and the power of that previous effort are smoothed-out here, beginning with bit of string-filled sweetness dubbed "Suite 1." Chock-full of soul and spirit, "Temperamental," with former Little Brother member Phonte Coleman, is arguably the best RJD2 vocal track to date, while "A Lot of Night Ahead of You" touches upon Dead Ringer's love of grind and grit, but the tinkling sequencers that fly about the cut are as 2013 RJD2 as the searing rock guitar that cuts through the track. Popped high on disco and furious congas, "Winter Isn't Coming" is a jazz fusion wonder that shines bright; then there's the delightful thrill of live-feeling jazz-funk ("Got There, Sugar?") giving way to Aaron Livingston delivering an excellent broken beat, future ballad ("Love and Go"). Explaining that "It All Came to Me in a Dream," rapper Blueprint speaks for the producer's motives on the closing cut, and even if More Is Than Isn't doesn't flow as well as his previous efforts, this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink experience is dazzling, always leaving the listener wondering what might come next. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

Since We Last Spoke Play

Instrumental hip-hop can be a tough way to succeed, financially or artistically. The commercial world puts a low price on non-superstar productions and, for independent rap, the specter of DJ Shadow towers over all who come after him. Though it was overhyped, the full debut of Rjd2 in 2002 (Dead Ringer) illustrated there was additional ground left to plow. Unlike the dozens of Shadow imitators, Rjd2 isn't simply a resurrector of unjustly forgotten wax. He's a virtuoso on the sampler who recognizes that what's important isn't the beats, but what you do with them. To that he adds an implicit awareness of how to pace the songs on his albums for maximum effect. (It certainly doesn't hurt that, around that time, late-'70s rock and urban, his favorite genres to mine for samples, were closer to becoming cool than they had ever been before.) None of these traits were forgotten during Rjd2's journey to success, and his second production album refines the approach still further. With only a few exceptions, though, Since We Last Spoke makes the moody Dead Ringer sound like a piece of flag-waving exuberance; instead of the occasional up-tempo track, it's brooding and mellow throughout the record -- very nearly a rap singer/songwriter record. Three tracks in a row ("Exotic Talk," "1976," "Ring Finger") are sludge rock jams with just a few beats cut out and a few extras (like a talkbox or horn section) pasted on. Surely 50 Cent has nothing to worry about, but Rjd2 knows what he's doing and all of these songs have a way of worming inside your head until you can't wait for the next one. You've got to hand it to any producer who's able to succeed despite covering (and contributing the vocals for) one of the more mawkish tunes of Labi Siffre (who's revered by hip-hop artists for creating the classic "My Name Is..." and "Streets Is Watching" riffs, but who also functioned as a gay Al Stewart during the '70s). It's a left turn for one of the most promising producers in alt-rap, but it could lead to a better place down the road. ~ John Bush, Rovi

The Colossus Play

The Colossus is Rjd2's first self-produced album for his own label, RJ's Electrical Connections, and it definitely benefits from being released by a boutique. Aside from the features, which come from friends rather than fortune-makers, The Colossus finds Rjd2 back to doing what he did when he first began recording: simply curating excellent productions instead of wooing a new audience by creating expressly written songs or telling a story with his full-lengths. A couple of the instrumentals here are entirely constructed from samples (starting with the opener "Let There Be Horns"), and they create a fractured sense of swing -- especially since they sit so well next to slightly more "played" productions. Rjd2's guests are singers more than rappers (with just a few exceptions), so the R&B vibe behind "Games You Can Win" (featuring Kenna) and the infectious, horn-led "Crumbs Off the Table" (featuring Aaron Livingston) is palpable. Whether Rjd2 needed a reset or not after leaving his previous label, The Colossus shows him relaxed and happy being his own boss. ~ John Bush, Rovi

Inversions of the Colossus Play

A companion release to January’s The Colossus, Inversions of the Colossus features instrumental versions of The Colossus' vocal tracks. RJD2 also adds seven exclusives to the set, most of which are also instrumental and graced with the gentle, elegant flourishes that characterize the original album. And, like the original, it's issued on the producer/MC's RJ's Electrical Connections label., Rovi
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