Release Date: Mar 25, 2016
Record label: RJ's Electrical Connections
Genre(s): Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Jumbling Krautrock, '70s electronica, and Philly soul at its brightest, Dame Fortune is producer RJD2's grandest solo record since his 2002 debut, Dead Ringer. Magnificent City from 2006 doesn't count because it was as much an Aceyalone LP as it was the producer's, and while The Colossus and a couple other releases were top-notch, this one flows with the purpose of his debut, offering an end-to-end journey that's Dark Side of the Moon with much more funk and Phonte (from Little Brother/Foreign Exchange). The latter appears on the soaring highlight "Saboteur," which falls somewhere between B.o.B and the Beatles.
Since 2002’s Deadringer, RJD2 has excelled at a particular form of hip-hip bricolage that scavenges various genre tropes and sutures them together into a single elemental dynamism. While he pulls liberally from a wide range of sonic templates, from ‘90s rap to to indie pop to brass-heavy Philadelphia soul, there is an ongoing commitment to “beat”—the vital impulse concentrating noise and sound into a linearized emotional unfurling —that rises above the genre-splicing and formal experimentation integral to his approach. Indeed, RJD2 is a beat-maker in the strictest sense of the term.
There’s a good chance you know producer RJD2’s work, even if you didn’t know he was at the helm. He composed the Mad Men intro, a layered blend of strings and cascading drums depicting the main character’s descent. Then there’s the beat in this Miller Lite TV spot—a brassy number with blaring horns, soaked in New Orleans-style soul. In these instances and others, the composer skillfully blends genres, creating rap/funk hybrids that seem influenced by his living in Philadelphia, a city known for its rich musical history.
Instrumental hip-hop guru and all-round beat aficionado RJD2 is back to his old tricks again — well, almost back to them. His latest offering, Dame Fortune, is being hailed as a return to the style that was his making, but that's not entirely accurate. True, it's a step up from the jazz-rock leanings of 2013's More is Than Isn't, and the percussion is very reminiscent of his early work, but Dame Fortune is scarcely hip-hop at all.
‘Dame Fortune‘, the sixth studio album by Philadelphia producer and sonic alchemist RJD2, is a loosely defined concept album. It’s a social and political statement by a producer intent on exploring beyond just beats, crate digging and samples. It’s the sound of RJD2 looking to explore deep into his nation’s psyche. The album comes primarily informed by the producer’s experience living in Philadelphia where the album was also recorded.
Like hip-hop producers, DJs occupy a strange boundary zone in popular music, ostensible creators who are nonetheless appreciated more as conduits. For the few who have managed to secure widespread name recognition, and whose interests stretch beyond mere crate-digging, the decision to branch out into composing original material seems natural. While spanning a broad variety of musical styles, such efforts generally fall into one of two categories, either winnowing down their focus in pursuit of a consistent album aesthetic, or attempting to approximate the expansive, improvisatory nature of a live set.
As a lifelong Chicagoan, I’ve always found Wisconsin to feel a little behind the times. Through that, though, it held either a curious, old-fashioned charm or a frustrating lag. For every ‘50s-style supper club, there’s a Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, which touts a “Giant Lever!” I spent many a childhood summer weekend in a rundown but lovable four-room cabin in Burlington with my grandparents, and have so many fond memories of farm breakfasts, rowboats, and camping.
RJD2’s been labeled a sample-happy hip-hop producer, an experimental indie rocker, or maybe just that guy who made the “Mad Men” theme. But on his excellent sixth solo album, we can simply enjoy what he truly is: a complete musician. What ties together the album’s broad range of sounds and styles is his driving creative spirit: Regardless of the constantly evolving mood, RJ finds new ways to surprise and engage your ears.
It's that time again when writers Juan and Carl go through their previous month's custom playlists in search of a handful of albums that deserve your attention. After being a bit tough with some of last month's notable electronic offerings, it's curious to see that Juan's two highest scores out of ….