Hip-Hop used to be such an alien concept to me. The only real rap I liked was Eminem, yet I stereotyped the entire genre by using clichéd phrases such as “You can’t sell crap without rap” and “Rap equals ‘Retards attempting poetry’”. But all of a sudden something changed, I began understanding why so many people dug Hip-Hop and then began to dig it myself. It wasn’t a particularly slow evolution, but it took some time. RJD2 was one of the first driving forces that took me from an indie kid who couldn’t stand rap to and indie kid who listened to almost as much rap as indie.
RJD2 was one of the hundreds of artists I discovered via skateboarding without knowing it. ‘Ghostwriter’, off his debut Dead Ringer
played in some skater’s video part. While at that point I didn’t really care about the song, when I actually discovered RJD2 (by being recommended to listen to him after listening to DJ Shadow all day) I fell in love with it. Soon I had listened to his debut and was craving more RJD2, that’s when I dug up RJD2’s sophomore LP Since We Last Spoke
‘Since We Last Spoke’ starts off with a bang. Title track Since We Last Spoke
is (nearly) instrumental Hip-Hop at its best. Distorted, Rocking guitar riffs, 80’s synth loops and jazzy piano lines are held up by a standard rock beat on top of this are some great vocal harmonies. The vocals, while brief, are amazing. They are soulful and relaxing and they come in at just the right time. The title track sets a high standard for the rest of the album to say the least.
RJD2 has a fairly eclectic sound; he mixes electronica and trip-hop influences with soul and rock samples to create jazzy hip-hop tunes. Some tracks come out sounding more like one genre than the others though. 1976
is a perfect example of this. The melodies in this song are created entirely on brass, which gives a very jazzy sound. The actual drums are very jazzy themselves and layered with bongo loops. The next track Ring Finger
is more of an 80’s pop-rock song. The first song to have vocals throughout nearly the entire song Ring Finger features a great drum break, which evolves into sound effect palooza and later a saxophone solo which is followed by a xylophone-esque tuned percussion solo. Oh, the vocals are great too.
Continuing the string of good tracks Making Days Longer
is probably my favorite song on Since We Last Spoke. The most indie track on the album ‘Making Days Longer’ sounds quite like a Notwist song with its electronic drums and keyboard noodlings. The lyrics to this song are emotional, while the lyrics themselves aren’t depressing, I’ve waited all days to say Hello to you, I even wrote a song for you
the manner in which they are sung, a kind of Morrissey esque voice, makes the whole song quite depressing, which (For some reason) I like.
While I would recommend this to any fan of genre pioneer DJ Shadow in a heartbeat, RJD2 doesn’t sound a lot like Shadow. For one thing, Most DJ Shadow songs are sad and creepy sounding, while the majority of RJD2 songs aren’t depressing at all. Also RJ’s songs tend to be much less complex than Shadow’s. I like to think of RJ as a more underground DJ Shadow just coming out of therapy.
The end of the album is a little disappointing; it features the longest song, which is also one of the worst (To All of You), a one minute introduction and some other just decent songs. The end is saved with the rather great last track, One Day
. Arguably the most soul track on the album, One Day is a good track to leave off on.
All in all the album isn’t hindered much by the end. It doesn’t really feature a bad song (only a couple mediocre ones) and stays interesting throughout its 11 tracks. There are a few really superb songs (Since We Last Spoke, Making Days Longer) sprinkled throughout it, which makes for quite a good listen, well deserving of a