Review: RJD2

by Eric Thompson

RJD2 is one unassuming looking fellow. Upon first glance, he’s a tall drink of water. You would never the things his hands and his mind are capable of. A product of the booming Columbus, Ohio hip-hop scene, DJ/producer RJD2 (born RJ Krohn) set the world on fire in 2002 with the immaculately layered hip-hop/electronica/soul/instrumental masterpiece, “Deadringer”. He’s the one that made El-P the second best producer on his own Definitive Jux record label. His patent style of obscure old-soul samples, insanely gritty breaks, and top-notch scratching brought in the funk and rhythm to an increasingly stagnant (and dare I say pretentious) inde hip-hop scene. Suddenly, for all of the superlative underground acts, RJD2 became “that guy I need to get on this record.” The likes of MF Doom, Cunninlynguists, and newcomer Diverse came calling. Hell, The Roots were even blown away by a beat he submitted to them for their forthcoming album, “The Tipping Point”. And, of course, he still had his Definitive Jux and Columbus brethern to pump out tunes with.

2003 brought the total fruition of Soul Position, which is a collaborative super group between Blueprint and RJD2. The new challenge for Mr. Krohn was to match every intensely spit syllable by Blueprint with a well-placed hi-hat or luscious sample. The result? “8,000,000 Stories”; one of the very best hip-hop albums of 2003. Now, let’s think; where the hell does one go after they have done all that RJ Krohn did in a two year span? It just seems too convenient that, with RJD2 recently dropping his sophomore solo effort (“Since We Last Spoke”), there would a major slump for this “too hot to last” artist. Forget about it! Instead, RJD2 was able to reinvent himself without changing his core sound. Only the great artists of the genre have ever been able to do this and still keep their rabid fanbase. Think Outkast or Kool Keith.

For “Since We Last Spoke” RJD2 strips away most of the scratching and overall adrenaline of “Deadringer” to give heads something more personal yet every bit as sweet to the senses. The texture of the music is far more electronic than hip-hop in its nature but the sweet breaks that fans all know and love RJD2 for, remain.

Now the question is, where does RJD2 go from here? I’m sure the answer to that is imminent.