RJD2 – Deadringer (20 Year Anniversary)

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Twenty years have passed since the introduction of RJD2, who burst onto the scene with his debut album Deadringer. Its an instrumental album that has since stood the test of time, far more than many albums on the Definitive Jux record label. While El-P’s Fantastic Damage or Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein are so of the most defining albums from the record label, their lo-fi mixing techniques put them in a different class from this album.

Unlike those albums, the mix here strikes the perfect balance. Its not the cleanest mix in the world, but that’s on purpose. Some tracks like “Final Frontier” give this slight warmth from the fire of the vinyl, or tracks like “The Horror” have so many sounds packed into it that you could spend forever picking them apart. Its an album that feels like no matter how deeply you look at it, you’re always going to find a new sound.

What RJD2 did on this album was no small feat, and you can feel that in the sample selection alone. Using anything & everything, with samples flying left & right sounding like they come from rock, classic hip hop records, movie scores, they all meld together to make an exciting ride. “Good Times Roll Pt. 2” is a perfect example of this, incorporating all these elements & then some into the same track. This is only one track mind you, as the entire album is daring on this mission.

RJD2 – Good Times Roll Pt. 2

It borders on film score territory, as so many tracks feel anthemic rather than standard instrumentals. This was recognized in the film industry too, as one of the more notable tracks here “Ghostwriter” landed in the 2004 film Wimbledon. Despite this, it never feels like it loses its hip hop roots, as the drums always have the iconic hip hop rhythms. Everything here could be rapped on, but having just these instrumentals lets them breathe.

That’s where the album duller moments strikes, as the few rap features that appear here break up the pace. When these moments enter, its as if the album comes to a halt to let these rappers have their moment. While they aren’t poor performances, Blueprint in particular has a fantastic verse on “Final Frontier,” there is quite a difference when compared to a song like “Cut Out to FL.”

Thankfully, these flaws are few. Excluding these tracks, its as if the album hasn’t aged a day. Each track with the usage of vocal samples seem to lightly string together a story, adding to the cinematic feeling. That along with the classic hip hop breaks that get used, make for an unforgettable listen.

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