RJD2 Deadringer

[Def Jux; 2002]

Styles: instrumental hip hop, sample-based found sound construction, downtempo
Others: Blockhead, The Automator, Madlib, El-P

I can't believe it's August already. This summer has passed me by yet again. Last summer was kind of nice. I didn't have work so besides some summer classes, I got the chance to hang around New York City. I think it was safe to say that The Shins' Oh Inverted World was the album of last summer. It was pleasant, not too confrontational and had a familiar quality to it. By year's end, people still liked The Shins album. Their only qualm was that it wasn't anything original. I sort of agreed. But what's wrong with a nice pop record?

Rjd2's debut full length, Deadringer is The Shins' Oh Inverted World all over again. You would probably expect something more original coming from the Def Jux camp. El-P, Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock have really come full steam deconstructing all perceptions of what hip-hop is and what it could be. I would never have imagined they would put out this album. Not that it's run-of-the-mill by any means, but Deadringer is definitely much more conventional than what's been released in the past.

You'd be kidding yourself if you didn't hear DJ Shadow's Endtroducing all over this album. Deadringer's second track, "Salud," is sadly a straight copy off Endtroducing's "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt." The sampled vocals open the album for the listener and proclaim that Rjd2 is proud of everything he's done here.

And he should be. Deadringer is an enjoyable flashback of the past few years of abstract, instrumental hip hop. Mixing funky drumbeats with downtempo strings and jazz basslines, Deadringer culls the best of what we've previously heard from Ninja Tune and Mo Wax releases since 1996.

The Columbus, Ohio bred-DJ/Producer works nicely with MCs Blueprint, Jakki and Copywright, all giving the vocalists the space to stretch while the music compliments their deliveries quite nicely. The finest examples off Deadringer are undoubtedly "Ghostwriter," "Chicken-Bone Circuit," and "The Proxy" as all tracks blend what I love about this music together: rapid fire drum patterns, muted horns and guitar strumming are all over every track.

The more I listen to Deadringer, the more I like it. I might just end up throwing out my Mr. Scruff, Rae & Christian and Funki Porcini cds to make room in the collection. If Rjd2 can build on the past (which he's already mastered), maybe even embrace his label cohorts, I imagine I might even have to throw away my DJ Shadow cds as well.

1. The Horror
2. Salud
3. Smoke and Mirrors
4. Good Times Roll Pt. 2
5. Final Frontier
6. Ghostwriter
7. Cut Out to FL
8. F.H.H.
9. Shot in the Dark
10. Chicken-Bone Circuit
11. The Proxy
12. 2 More Dead
13. Take the Picture Off
14. Silver Fox
15. June
16. Work

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