Rjd2 is much more than hip-hop

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 11:11 p.m.
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Rjd2, a.k.a. Columbus, Ohio-born R.J. Krohn, is making a name for himself in the world of instrumental hip-hop. He plays in Orlando tonight, then travels to Tallahassee on Thursday.

Special to The Sun
Much of hip-hop is an elephant parade. In front of the peanut-crunching crowds, enormous rap personalities stomp into the ground as large a footprint as possible before being replaced by another elephant and yet another and so on.
But in a time when hip-hop is overwrought with discussions over Jay-Z's phrasing and Eminem's articulation, the even-spoken, hip-hop turntablist Rjd2 (a.k.a. 28-year-old R.J. Krohn) is a mouse in the tent, reminding hip-hop fans that the lifestyle owes as much to the hands as it does to the mouth.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, where he attended The Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School, Krohn released his debut LP, "Deadringer," in 2002. It made him a big name on the Def Jux roster and in the world of instrumental hip-hop.
His latest release, "Since We Last Spoke," consists of a range of styles so broad that it seems false for record stores to shelve it only under "hip-hop."
Only a few tracks on the album ("Intro" and "To All of You") showcase old school scratching and rapping. "Someone's Second Kiss" and "To All of You" mix "grown people" soul music from the 80s, while "Through the Walls" sounds like a Rick Springfield pop-rock anthem. At other times, the album sounds like a European club mix ("Iced Lightning") or even old school funk ("1976"). Pile on top of that some jazz, salsa and a bit more rock guitar, and you're getting closer to the main idea of this album-to have no main idea.
The breadth of a DJ's sampling ability is a large measure of his success, explained Krohn, who currently has Zero 7, Young Buck, Eminem, TV on the Radio and Air on rotation at home. "Everybody wants to be sampling all the [stuff] that nobody can recognize. It's a pride/ego thing that all people who do what I do have."
Go too far and wide in your sampling, however, and you'll slip down on the rating scale of the average hip-hop critic, who'll wonder aloud like an old lady in a fast food commercial, "Where's the beat?"
Krohn seemed to have internalized this when he said of his latest release: "I think it's a little too all-over-the-place for its own good. The goal was to make a diverse album, but I think I went a little overboard."
What's wrong with going overboard? Trying to stay true to the constraints of a specific genre can hem experimentation and artistry. Though "Since We Last Spoke" may not be a pure hip-hop album, it's brought the kids wearing Chucks and wallet chains into the hip-hop aisle, because it's interesting and beautiful all the way through.
"I hear from people who say, 'I don't like rap music, but I like your record,' " admitted Krohn. "I think there's a good amount of straight-up indie rock kids who are listening. I think it's because I'm outside of the box."

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