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Album Review

His debut LP for Definitive Jux, DJ/producer RJD2's Dead Ringer is a deeply creative and musically poignant hip-hop record for summer 2002. Creating a raging underground listenership from a series of 45s and white labels and being the only non-MC signed to Def Jux, RJD2's talent as a DJ and as producer, to match beats and lay cult/pop gems over dusty soul tracks, is paralleled only by people like DJ Shadow and Z-Trip. However, his ability to record and marry MCs to his primarily instrumental and sample-based style is evidenced in outstanding tracks with Copywrite and Blueprint as well as his legacy with the MHz crew; at the end of day that puts our man from Ohio ahead of his primarily one-dimensional peer group. This set will stand out as monumental for Definitive Jux, who with their first record outside of the New York MC box continues to stride toward really being definitive in their roster and catalog of independent hip-hop.

Customer Reviews

RJD2's Dead Ringer: A Must Listen

Dead Ringer, RJD2’s debut album, is a definitive example of an artist arranging relatively simple samples and loops into something complex and unbounded by any meaningful categorization in terms of genre. While the album is often and wrongly labeled as “hip hop,” the Ohio-raised artist does use an assortment of hip hop samples and rappers, backed by somber blues samples and heavy, bass-driven drum loops to produce a concept entrenched in versatility. It is apparent that RJD2 makes no attempt at self-restraint with regard to his sampling, as he once told interviewers, “I’ve taken drum samples off of Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials [before].” He clearly cares only about how his work turns out in the end, and the result is a consistently rich and vibrant collection of sound. Take for example a fan-favorite off of Dead Ringer, “Ghostwriter,” and notice how its journey progresses throughout the five-minute track. Catchy and bright horn arrangements dominate the first half of the song, backed by a loaded texture of heavy bass and drumbeats. Shortly past the three-minute point in the song, the horns are subtracted, and the drums are manipulated into a delightfully off-kilter and still-heavy rhythm. Soulful voices at both high and low pitches carry the rhythm through the next ninety seconds or so of the song. RJD2 finishes the song the way he started it by reintroducing the domineering sound of the easily accessible horn arrangement. It would be a challenge to say the least for listeners to avoid getting this song’s melody stuck in their heads. Other songs hold more evidence of sound-manipulating techniques employed by RJ, such as “Smoke and Mirrors.” The song begins with a somewhat hypnotic assortment of looped tones, with a by-now trademark heavy drum rhythm following. The drums are less dominating than they are accentuating to the rest of the sound—the end product is a track that deserves more than just a few listens. The lyrical accompaniment introduced within the first minute makes every sound used in the track seem destined to be together. A somewhat haunting, bass heavy, fading-in-and-out blues singer asks, “Who knows what tomorrow could bring?” The last minute of the song is characterized by a wondrous soundscape, which is, for me, the most rewarding part of listening to any part of the album. Faraway piano keys unveil tones that book end a simple yet ingenious synthesized sound, climbing down a ladder of high-to-low tonal frequencies. The melody is repeated a few times (and for good reason) as the song reaches its calm and timely close. Other songs of particular note on the album include “Good Times Roll Pt. 2” (Part one is notoriously absent from the album), featuring powerful horn sounds reverberating and repeating. The song is upbeat and aptly placed on the album after a few darker tunes, and adds to the cohesiveness of RJD2’s final project. One of these darker tunes is the first track on the album, “The Horror,” sampling a frantic voice echoing the word “time,” starting at a low pitch and moving to a slightly higher and much more maniacal pitch as the echo progresses. The bass samples used back up the bright horns giving the track a gritty and raw flavor, setting the stage for an album that offers an unpredictable auditory ride. Giving the album just one listen, and even more so attending one of RJD2’s concerts, shows listeners that he is more than proficient on the turntables. His masterful sampling is an offspring of methods used in early technosonic music, and would never be possible if people like Pierre Henry (sampling real sounds with his Musique Concrete style) and Herbert Eimert (technologically altering sounds with his Electronische Musik style) did not trail blaze a path for future generations. The album nicely finishes with “Work,” a soulful track that is split into two very different but subtly similar songs. If you have never heard RJD2’s debut work, I highly recommend it. He is a DJ who uses self-proclaimed simple methods of technological production, but the sound that results is nothing short of groundbreaking.


Buy the horror, smoke and mirrors, ghostwriter, and chicken bone circiut,.
This guy's a genius

Great even to me

I'm ussually the one who would never listen to hip hop/rap, but this album changed me, especially ghostwriter. These songs are really good, even though I only own a few. Everyone should buy atleast some of these songs


Born: May 27, 1976 in Eugene, OR

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

RJD2's music is a collage of cut-and-paste hip-hop that combines disparate elements to make for soulful, moody portraits of the world. Born Ramble John Krohn in Eugene, Oregon, on May 27, 1976, he moved to Columbus, Ohio a few years later and was raised there. He first busted out onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 -- a time when producers were emerging from the shadows to seize the spotlight -- as the DJ/producer for the Columbus-based group Megahertz. MHz had two 12" singles released on Bobbito Garcia's...
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Deadringer, RJD2
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Customer Ratings