RJD2
Deadringer


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
July 9th, 2005 | 34 replies | 13,790 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


RJD2
Dead Ringer

This past May, I had the opportunity to see RJD2 live at my school, Williams College. It was an intense day for me, having played in a huge Rugby game earlier and having had my head shaved in the tradition of hazing rookie bitches. So, this eventful day seemed to be the perfect venue for my first hip hop show. In middle school I had laughed at rap and hip-hop as a simple, boring genre, and even after I got into it in my senior year of high school, I never was willing to shell out money to go to a show, preferring the communities of hardcore kids and mosh pits. I loved the intensity and comradery at every show, and couldn't see that existing at a hip hop show. There was no traditional instrumentation (excepting somebody like Heiruspecs), so how could the artist, especially an instrumental hip hop artist like RJD2, manipulate some kind of musical device for emotional and aesthetic output quite like a dude shredding it up on guitar. Was there some unique quality of hip hop that comes across in the live setting? Am I too white to understand the beauty of a live beat?

Yes, and, sort of. RJD2 spun like a mad scientist. The look of concentration on his face and tight orchestration of his set were amazing to watch. He had a synced video and his whole set was on a special time sequence that he improvised inside of, all through sampling. He takes something so outdated and synthetic and reformed it right in front of me, which was that X factor I had yet to pick up from hip hop. He rephrased what seemed tired and played out on its own in something palatable and interesting. It's this building of a song that was revealed to me that night and I immediately relistened to all my hip hop to try to hear that unique quality in a different, "enlightened" way.

Dead Ringer stands out to me. Whereas the unofficial king of sampled hip hop, DJ Shadow, creates songs that are dark, mysterious, and organic, RJD2's are bright, jangly, and just plain old fun. Sure, there are dark elements to RJD2's album, but in general his talent for happier tones complement his record collection of funk, r&b, and jazz classics. His albums have more loud trumpets and dominant seventh chords on top of the beat than a DJ Shadow who prefers to be slinky and elusive with smooth sax or minor seventh chords. Fundamentally, the beats are standard and a nice backbone, but where the music excels is in this unique mode, which stands out in the usually dark world of sampled hip hop. RJD2 is not an imitator, but a bellwether.

Specifically, I can't get enough of the moments of guitar. Being a guitarist myself, I really appreciated the variety of guitar chosen. On the first real track, "The Horror," the guitar isn't too overdone and is used only for effect. A little major 2nd lick with a slight wah on the pedal propels the song with a nice variety. The pretty harmonics played on "Final Frontier" play an important part in linking the percussion and melody, while just sounding plain old cool. The beachy, almost bossa nova guitar that founds "Ghostwriter" introduces chromatic harmonies but allow room for a plain diatonic melody line with the singer and horn section during the crescendo of the song. And while on the subject of horns, those are well chosen too. They remind me of listening to oldies radio with my mom as a young kid. They are fun, and well suited to the general mood of the CD. That mood, like I mentioned earlier, though bright and happy, does allow room for the darker elements of trip hop to seep in through the cracks. "The Proxy" and "F.H.H." definitely have their eerier moments, but those are more in the spirit of balance than ambience. RJD2 even samples goofy little scare tracks to bring levity to songs that would otherwise be mildly oppressive in their traditional darkness.

There is enough balance, dedication to craft, and plain old fun to make Dead Ringer a solid outing for hip hop fans old and young. To end, I'd like to quote the album to sum up the general mood and tone of the album, perfectly stated on "F.H.H." by guest emcee Jakki. "So what the fuck is your definition of underground? / Depressing beats and bleak cats who love the sound."



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user ratings (214)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
July 9th 2005



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

RJD2 has been on my radar for a while now, thanks a couple of remixes and guest spots on compilations. I've been meaning to get this for a while now.

Great review, man.

Robert Crumb
Emeritus
July 9th 2005



165 Comments


Darn good review. I like this album plenty but agree with the rating. RJD2 should have just dropped the guest MCs altogether, in my opinion. Not a fan of Jakki da Motormouth and I'm not big on Blueprint either. But Copywrite wasn't so bad.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
July 9th 2005



3995 Comments


Ya. I think the songs hold their own without guest MCs but I don't really care.

FillInTheBlankHere___
July 13th 2005



64 Comments


Excellent review, and wonderful timing. I'm seeing RJD2 headlining Buck 65 (one of my favourite overall artists), and C.R. Avery tomorrow. I've been looking forward to this show since April. :-D

DFelon204409
Emeritus
July 24th 2005



3995 Comments


How was the show? I guess I still haven't seen a hip hop tour, only one isolated show.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
March 14th 2006



3995 Comments


By the way, nice Shostakovich avatar.

The Jungler
March 26th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yet another of my favorite artists I discovered before I knew who they were via Skateboarding. Great Review, I still have yet to see a real hip-hop show and if RJD2 came to town I'd be there in a heartbeat.

Uninventivename
January 5th 2007



19 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hardly anyone has rated this album - buy it now, it's amazing. The best bits are anything with horns in; Ghostwriter is phenomenal, as are Cut Out to Fl and 2 More Dead. I'm disappointed that he seems to be becoming more hip-hop and working with vocalists as all the best songs on this album are the instrumentals, just hope he doesn't go the way of DJ Shadow, who sucks now in my opinion.

The Jungler
January 6th 2007



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hardly anyone has rated this album - buy it now, it's amazing. The best bits are anything with horns in; Ghostwriter is phenomenal, as are Cut Out to Fl and 2 More Dead. I'm disappointed that he seems to be becoming more hip-hop and working with vocalists as all the best songs on this album are the instrumentals, just hope he doesn't go the way of DJ Shadow, who sucks now in my opinion.
His new stuff is supposedly going to feature all live instrumentation and RJD2 singing a lot more. Could be good or could suck. Anyways, I feel the need to listen to this CD.
This Message Edited On 01.06.07

MassiveAttack
January 21st 2007



2684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yea, I'm excited for the new album as well. Unfortuntely I've only listened to this album and haven't been able to obtain a copy of "Since We Last Spoke". As for this album it really sounds 'different' in the sense that it doesn't necessarily hit you right away how great it is. The album is so cohesive together, it tends to grow on you.

Doppelganger
March 10th 2007



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review. This album is so awesome. Smoke and Mirrors is my favorite at the moment.

Merkaba33
February 7th 2009



702 Comments


hey these guys are comin to my school too. i would see em but sh*t im so broke. i saw method man and red man and that was pretty sick.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
February 7th 2009



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

probably not worth going tbh... his new album isn't that amazing (and a completely different sound, like not unique/ electronic like this)

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins®

DFelon204409
Emeritus
February 7th 2009



3995 Comments


Agreed on the new stuff being disappointing. Also, this album has gone down for me over the years, but it's still good.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
February 8th 2009



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, it's a 3-3.5 for me -- i really wish he would team up with a sick rapper or something instead of his current direction. i really thought he would be the next automator.

backinhindsight
February 17th 2009



198 Comments


Method and Red came to my school too, and now RJD2 is also coming... they must be on the same circuit

Merkaba33
February 17th 2009



702 Comments


Yeah my roommate got me a ticket so it looks like I will be going to this show.

Method and Red came to my school too, and now RJD2 is also coming... they must be on the same circuit

What school do you go to? Just curious.


backinhindsight
March 22nd 2009



198 Comments


this is a little late, but Western Washington University

ONEdependent
April 30th 2009



5 Comments


I like you comparisons of Shadow and RJ. nice work.

Radio Recession!
http://radiorecession.blogspot.com/


Enotron
November 28th 2009



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

album is so dope. always nice to see great instrumental hip-hop. I mean it will never really compare to the brilliant atmosphere of endtroducing, but i dont see why it should. i think the bomb-squad(the guys who produced public enemy records) would be proud of this album. though i've been told this is rjd2's only good album.



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