Rjd2 is another Columbus artist I got into in a roundabout way. I’d been familiar with him for quite a while. My brother gave me one of the Soul Position CDs which I dug quite a bit. But I never explored further. I was several seasons into Mad Men before learning that the theme song, which I loved, was Rjd2. What a great drum beat and vintage sound. I finally got his first full-length, Deadringer, and it was a revelation. Mostly instrumental hip hop, stylistically all over the map, with obscure samples. Wow, why didn’t I check this out more in-depth sooner?
Definitive Jux - DJX35
Although Rjd2 was born in Eugene Oregon (as Ramble Jon Krohn) and spent over a decade in Philadelphia, he is Columbus to the core. And so is Deadringer. Featuring three of the top Columbus-based emcees (Blueprint, Copywrite, and Jakki Da Motamouth) and samples of obscure Columbus releases, Deadringer is quintessentially Columbus. The inside of the CD tray card is a letter from his Columbus rental company informing him of complaints about drumming in the building. And whether or not critical acclaim means anything (and Rj has his share of critics, of course) Deadringer is quite possibly the most critically acclaimed album to emerge from Columbus.
Opener The Horror immediately establishes the atmosphere and Rj’s crate-digging bona fides, with samples from Scooby-Doo to Gershon Kingsley. Smoke & Mirrors samples the hook from Marion Black’s Who Knows, shining the light on the obscure Columbus artist. Whether or not this had anything to do with Numero Group releasing the Eccentric Soul compilation, featuring tracks from Bill Moss’ Capsoul label, a few years after Deadringer, Who Knows had quite a run peaking with a 2013 Super Bowl ad.
The first rap comes courtesy of Blueprint on Final Frontier. The thing I appreciate about Blueprint is his lack of front. He’s not creating a persona, he raps honestly and from the heart. He mentions Soul Position several times throughout the track, and this is essentially the first Soul Position song. Blueprint and Rj would go on to release a couple of albums as Soul Position. I’m a fan - more great stuff my brother brought to my attention.
Ghostwriter is probably the best-known track on the album. Remember this Wells Fargo ad? It's a great example of Rj’s ability to string disparate samples together to create something that’s both new and catchy. Trying to figure out what the samples are is half the fun. June, which features another Columbus emcee in Copywrite, was released on a twelve-inch single about a year before the release of Deadringer and was the catalyst for the hype that springboarded Deadringer to commercial and critical success. “My whole goal with making Deadringer was to bridge (the instrumental hip-hop and rap) worlds. It’s as simple as that. I wanted to make a record that both schools of thought could love,” noted Rjd2 in an interview on Medium.
Pitchfork gave Deadringer an 8.8. Album of The Year shows an average critic score of 87. The herd mentality of critics is apparent, though, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find a review that doesn’t compare Deadringer to DJ Shadow and specifically to Shadow’s album Endtroducing. Maybe that’s fair, but as Rj explored different avenues on subsequent releases, the praise didn’t follow. Such is the life of an artist. Rj continues to follow his muse, however, continually defying expectations. Ramble Jon Krohn “repatriated” to Columbus from Philadelphia in 2015, and I love what he had to say about it to 614.
“The process of leaving and coming back has been cathartic,” says Krohn. “It’s relieved me of any preconceived notions I had about Columbus. I can see it for what it is. You can do anything here. It’s its own unique place, so it doesn’t sit in any hierarchy between New York and Youngstown… What sets me at ease with (moving back not being seen as a failure) is that I’ve done a lot of shit in my life. It is not an accomplishment that I’ve lived in a major metropolitan city. I don’t need to be proud of that, there’s a lot of other things in life to be proud of.”
RJD2 is part of the extraordinarily robust, wide-ranging pool of talent in Columbus us music fans are so fortunate to have. Don’t take it for granted.
A1 The Horror
Featuring – Blueprint
Featuring – Jakki*
C11 The Proxy
C12 2 More Dead
D14 Silver Fox
Featuring – Copywrite
Produced For – RJ's Electrical Connections
Produced For – Full Nelson
Recorded At – Deathtrap
Recorded At – Intalec's
Mixed At – Deathtrap
Mixed At – Workbook Studio
Mastered At – The Lodge, New York
Copyright © – Definitive Jux
Distributed By – Caroline Distribution
Mastered By – Emily Lazar
Photography By – Cory Piehowicz
Producer, Arranged By, Performer, Recorded By – RJD2