Dusting Off... RJD2's 'Deadringer'
What is it?
The full-length debut album from DJ and producer Ramble John Krohn, better known to most by his stage name, RJD2, Deadringer is a largely instrumental hip hop record in the vein of artists like DJ Shadow and The Avalanches. If you’re a fan of U.S. TV series Mad Men, then you’ve already heard some of RJD2’s work - the title theme music is actually an instrumental version of a track named ‘A Beautiful Mine’, taken from the RJD2-produced album Magnificent City by rapper Aceyalone.
First released on El-P’s Definitive Jux imprint in 2002, Deadringer is a blend of hip hop that is heavily sample-based, but the producer also plays a number of instruments and his style is a seamless mixture of samples and live instrumentation that creates the kind of warm and soulful beats you might expect from J Dilla or an early Pete Rock record.
On the handful of tracks that do contain vocals, the contributors are well chosen. ‘Final Fronitier’ features rapper Blueprint, later to team up with RJD2 for two albums released under the name Soul Position. ‘June’ features lyrics courtesy of Copywrite, while one of the album’s highlights ‘F.H.H.’ features Jakki da Motamouth from New York-based hip hop collective The Weathermen, which includes among its members the likes of Cage and Aesop Rock.
Deadringer has a timeless quality to it that only certain records have and it’s hard to pick standout tracks from it as there are so many; the hit rate here is ridiculously high. If we had to, we’d probably say our favourites included the spooky, Gershwin Kingsley-sampling ‘The Horror’, ‘Ghostwriter’ and ‘2 More Dead’, but really it’s another one of those albums you should just leave to run all the way through.
Why should I revisit?
If nothing else it is an early insight into a producer who has since gone on to work on records by some of the hip hop world’s most talented MCs, including MF Doom (under his Viktor Vaughn guise), CunninLynguists, J-Live and Mos Def, as well as people like Yo La Tengo. It’s got variety, it’s got soul by the bagful and frankly if it doesn’t get your head nodding, we don’t know what will.
Who will enjoy it?
Anyone who is a fan of the work of people like DJ Shadow, Damu the Fudgemunk and People Under The Stairs, or alternative hip hop in general, will find heaps to enjoy on this varied and yet somehow timeless debut from one of the most gifted and unique producers around.