The Colossus is Rjd2's first self-produced album for his own label, RJ's Electrical Connections, and it definitely benefits from being released by a boutique. Aside from the features, which come from friends rather than fortune-makers, The Colossus finds Rjd2 back to doing what he did when he first began recording: simply curating excellent productions instead of wooing a new audience by creating expressly written songs or telling a story with his full-lengths. A couple of the instrumentals here are entirely constructed from samples (starting with the opener "Let There Be Horns"), and they create a fractured sense of swing -- especially since they sit so well next to slightly more "played" productions.
Independence is thrilling, but after those first tentative or defiant steps towards freedom, the urge to look back and survey the situation you just left can be hard to resist. That seemingly contradictory perspective, looking both forward and backwards, was at play when Rjd2 wrote The Colossus. His fourth solo album arrives at a pivotal moment, and not just because it follows the lyrical trainwreck and one man-band overreach of The Third Hand.
Fortune seems to favor some more than others; RJD2 is not among the favored. He began the last decade as a rising star, only to have his reputation decline slowly, largely in part to pedestrian hip-hop collaborations and unsuccessful forays into meandering pop electronica. Adding insult to injury, RJD2 (a.k.a. RJ Krohn) gained some late-decade exposure through AMC’s acclaimed series Mad Men, but only after selling the publishing rights to the theme song, thereby giving up any future profits from it.
On his new single, Jay-Z raps, "Niggas want my old shit, buy my old album" - a simple solution for perennial haters not feeling his artistic progression. RDJ2 can likely relate. Best known for composing the Mad Men theme, the hip-hop producer's sound has evolved from climactic film noir funk to anemic wimp-rock fusion. [rssbreak] His fourth album finds RJ splitting the difference between his original Def Jux sound and whatever his last album was, with predictably mixed results.
One of the inevitable truths of this life is that we must get older. Usually, it happens quietly and gradually—you wake up one morning, wondering “how did I get here?” Sometimes, it happens violently, traumatically, unforgettably. Something huge happens, and even unable to predict the future, it’s obvious that nothing will ever be the same. It’s impossible to say whether something so traumatic or life-changing happened to RJ Krohn, better known as RJD2, but there’s no denying that his last solo release, The Third Hand, changed his audience’s perception of his music irrevocably.