To be a star DJ these days means to lord over massive dancehalls pulsing to EDM and molly. There was a time, however, when prolific samplers included DJ Shadow, RJD2 and J Dilla instead of, you know...David Guetta. Of those three, at least, RJD2—born Ramble John Krohn—most fully embraced his jazz and soul roots, pairing deep grainy beats with samples that presaged hits like Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Otis.” More Is Than Isn’t is similarly satisfying, hearty music that gets back to RJD2’s roots.
A little more than a decade after Deadringer came out, there's enough music—and enough attempts at reconfiguring his style—to help you construct a picture of how all over the map RJD2's career has been. Whether it's a clear picture is another thing entirely; his shift from underground rap production next big thing to muddled indie-pop singer-songwriter to studio-bound funkateer has done a lot to confuse any set-in-stone ideas of what the RJD2 sound was or is supposed to be. His partnership with Aaron Livingston as Icebird seemed like a good first step towards a reconciliation of everything RJ had built up in his portfolio over the previous ten years or so.
Upon the very first listen, it appears that RJD2 didn’t stray too far from his norm. And although some demand a continuous evolution from each artist, I personally welcome a unique yet intricately perfected sound. On each subsequent listen to More Is Than Isn’t, I feel that RJ did precisely just that - tweaked individual elements to improve on his particular aesthetic, while taking the entire production an entire notch up.
With his debut album Dead Ringer offering nothing but addictive, gritty, busy, sample-heavy hip-hop of the head-bobbing variety, U.S. producer RJD2 found himself in a Catch 22, something like damned if he grew and damned if he didn't. It's not as if his music was ignored or avoided because of that beloved debut, but "not Dead Ringer" was a phrase heard too often, right til his 2010 effort The Colossus welcomed a new crop of fans.
After a decade experimenting with different styles and genres, producer RJD2 returns to the format of his 2002 debut. Like his classic Dead Ringer, More Is Than Isn't is focused primarily on instrumental hip-hop, along with a few vocal tracks featuring rappers and/or singers. The album opens with the piano-and-strings jazz of "Suite 1," while "Suite 2" and "Suite 3" bring that mellower vibe back at later points, as do uninspired instrumental "A Lot of Night Ahead of You" and the first third of experimental jazz instrumental "Got There, Sugar.
More Is Than Isn’t, the fifth proper full-length from Philly beatsmith RJD2, opens and closes with the echoes of distant bird chips. A consummate crate-digger and sample hunter, RJ lines the path in between nu-disco, dusty soul, rock ‘n’ roll, spiraling organ runs, and brash hip-hop. As the title suggests, its 16 tracks are a cacophony of aesthetics pulled from the producer’s myriad inspirations.
For better or worse, RJD2 is an artist obsessed with forward movement. After gaining critical praise for his tempered, sample-heavy debut, Deadringer, the Ohio producer released a triumvirate of records that saw him moving into hard beat box funk, awkward singer-songwriter groove and revisionist R&B. Returning to the production style that defined his first two releases, More Is Than Isn't brings together a handful of guest vocalists and rappers to round out a collection of 16 golden age electro tunes.
With a christened name that proves as intriguing as his stage name, Ramble John Krohn, RJD2, returns with his fifth LP under this moniker after numerous collaborations, EPs and mixes. A creative producer and master of electronic beats he has a knack for weaving together disjointed beats with fluid sounds to create hip hop inspired dance tracks; a sampling of RJD2’s “A Beautiful Mine” is known to many as Mad Men’s theme song. More Is Than Isn’t dabbles in several genres; 70’s funk, 80’s R&B and rap, and hip hop instrumentals.