by: Rahul Reddy
"Once every few years, a hip-hop artist comes along and puts hip-hop on his back," was what Sean "P. Diddy" Combs said in reference to 50 Cent.† 50 Cent started his ascent to fame, fortune and eventual redundancy in 2002-2003.† Underground hip-hop also was introduced to a sensation in 2002. Its fame spread like wildfire in a similar fashion of 50 Cent.† He doesnít have the street credibility of 50 Cent; he in fact is just a talented white guy from Ohio.† R.J. Krohn, known to the music world as Rjd2, stormed into the underground hip-hop scene in 2002 with Deadringer , and hasnít left us since. †
Like 50 Cent, Rjd2 gradually came into the picture through hard work and word of mouth.† Before Rjd2 got his chance to shine with his own solo disc, he produced for Megahertz, a popular underground group based in Ohio.† MHz boasts emcees such as Copywrite and Jakki who are currently experiencing success in the underground market.† Bobbito Garcia had MHz release two 12"s on his Fondle Emí imprint.† (The same Bobbito Garcia, who stars in EA Sportís NBA Street Vol. 2).† Counseling was one of the vinyls that featured an incredibly fresh beat supplied by Rjd2.
Word quickly spread about Rjd2 and his talents, and hip-hop producer El-P (real name: Jaime Meline) decided to sign Rjd2 to his brand new label, Definitive Jux.† El-P was a member of the group Company Flow that released the underground classic Funcrusher Plus on Rawkus Records in 1997.† Rjd2 jokingly refers to the reason that El-P signed him to his label.† "We went to Long Island in 2000 to go swimming Ö I have photos of El in a Speedo he bought there, and he is aware what is good and bad for his career." (Courtesy: Hiphopsite.com).†
Rjd2 produced his first Def Jux sponsored instrumental joint: "I Really Like Your Def Jux Baby T" on Def Jux Presents... † However, after Rjd2ís "June," Rjd2ís talent and name spread like an epidemic.† Iíll be perfectly honest, I didnít hear of Rjd2 until I heard "June,"†which features Copywrite on two verses discussing the pains of family strife.† Sandwiched between Copyís verses was one of Rjd2ís classic barrage of instrumental ingenuity.† The two minute instrumental set is the true gem of this track, and itís impossible to hear "June" without having the hair on my back standing.
"June" had Rjd2ís name spread on pretty much every Web site on the internet, with only words of praise and admiration.† When most hip-hop artists/producers are on the come-up, of course there will be haters who will try to destroy an artistís reputation.† As a columnist on a popular indie hip-hop Web site, I didnít encounter one person who didnít like Rjd2, let alone find someone who went out of their way to hate on Rjd2!† The stage was set for Rjd2 to drop a solo album that would solidify his position in modern underground hip-hop.
Deadringer was released June of 2002 to ridiculous amounts of love.† Feelings from around the hip-hop industry were that Deadringer was Moby done right.† See Rjd2, didnít use lyricists on every track; in fact, he only had three tracks of 16 that used emcees.† Rjd2 played his role as a true producer, and created 16 songs that fed off his nice production skills.† I personally didnít feel DJ Shadowís classic Endtroducing. I call it classic for the sake that the hip-hop world has dubbed it so.† However, Deadringer grabbed me so hard; I bought 3 CDís a week after to make sure I didnít play out this dope album. †Deadringer was the soundtrack to my summer of 2002, and each track brings out a certain emotion, a certain feel that that hip-hop hasnít seen in a while.
I remember the day I bought the CD; I actually took the train to New York City with some friends since no record stores in Princeton would carry it.† As soon as "Smoke and Mirrors" hit my eardrums on the train back home, I knew this album was more than just good.† Deadringer, for me, was clearly the best hip-hop record in 2002, even though it wasnít filled with lyrics.† Rarely does an artist come up with a record that gives you a new perspective of what music can truly be.† If Mozart was still alive, this would be the hip-hop CD thatíd be bumping in his boom-box.† I wasnít the only hip-hop head who felt this LP. Indie strongholds like Hiphopsite called it almost flawless. Even mainstream mogul magazine, "The Source," praised Rjd2 for his production wizardry.† Saturn paid Rjd2 to use "Ghostwriter" to use in an advertisement.† After such a successful release, Rjd2 doesnít take a long break; he is still pumping out music in 2003.† ††††††††††††† †
In February 2003, Rjd2 dropped a remix/rarities release in The Horror .† Although only 10 tracks long, The Horror portrayed Rjd2ís versatility to remix his own joints.† He perfected the art of remixing, changing a track up, but leaving just enough of the original track for it to be a remix.† After producing 2 CDís filled with instrumental bliss, Rjd2 has made lots of beats for rappers to shine on that are also dope as hell.†
Soul Position is a group consisting of Rjd2 on the beats, and Blueprint on the rhymes.† They released a critically praised self-titled EP on Rhymesayers.† Rjd2 also provided a lot of tracks for other artists to shine on.† Rjd2 blessed "F*ck Soundcheck," which was Copywriteís lead single off of his High Exaulted LP.† Copywrite is now one of the most prominent underground emcees on the verge of a major record deal.† Tame One, hailing out of Newark, New Jersey, released his solo album When Rappers Attack that features production by Rjd2.† "Up 2 No Good Again" boasts a soulful sample with heavy horns that forces you to knock your head.†
British powerhouse Massive Attack even tapped into Rjd2 this year.† "Butterfly Caught" was remixed by Rjd2 and distributed by Virgin Records.† Of course Rjd2 show and proved on this chance to remix a track from an esteemed group like Massive Attack.†
My favorite Rjd2 produced track this year comes from what I think is the best hip-hop track Iíve heard in a long time.† The Cunninlynguists are a Kentucky/Atlanta-based group who came up with the idea for a track called "Seasons."† "Seasons" features hip-hop legend Masta Ace and the Cunninlynguists using the seasons to describe the evolution of hip-hop.† From spring, which is the season Hip-hop was born. Summer is a metaphor for hip-hopís golden age.† Fall represents the turn for the worse, and winter is the "Ice Age" of hip-hop.† Obviously, the rhyme topic/lyrics would be there for this track. Rjd2 had the task of lacing it with a beat.† A stirring violin sample with an upbeat cowbell loop is what RJ came up with, and damn, the song just gives me goose bumps.† Combined with Rjd2ís production, "Seasons" is my favorite track this year, and Rjd2ís input has a big reason to do with that.
So whatís next for Rjd2?† He already has delivered on many platforms, whether remix projects, solo CDís or production.† The highly anticipated Soul Position debut LP, 8 Million Stories, will be hitting stores this fall.† The hype for this album is extremely high, mostly because Rjd2 is producing the whole album.†† He has only been active for two years in the general underground eye; that tells you something about the impact Rjd2 has had on the hip-hop world.†
Coming back to the quote from P. Diddy, in reference to 50 Cent, I believe it should be applied to Rjd2.† Although 50 Cent is the biggest artist this year, Rjd2ís impact is a far better one than 50ís.† From Copywrite to Tame One, to Cunninlynguists, Rjd2 is like Midas, anything he touches turns to auditory gold.† Rjd2 hasnít failed on producing anything, which is why his name holds so much weight.† 50 Cent is popular, but like all things in the mainstream, he will eventually decline.† Whether Rjd2ís sales decline or not, his quality has always been at a premium.† Thatís why the word-of-mouth surrounding Rjd2 is ridiculous.
I remember when I first received an e-mail from a guy in Australia named Marc S.† On my column, I regularly bring up anything Rjd2 does, just because itís always solid.† Marc wrote me a one-page letter thanking me for bringing up Rjd2 on our page.† I bring up a lot of artists on a regular basis, but I never got such applause.† Marc S. lives in Australia, and doesnít get the kind of underground news that we in America get, and really appreciated hearing Rjd2ís music.† Marc S. and I still talk all the time and he went from not knowing Rjd2ís music at all to no now considering him as one of his favorite artists in a matter of weeks.
Iím the most cynical person I know in regards to hip-hop.† My views are harsh and I donít like albums or artists just because of one good song.† Rjd2 is one of my favorite producers and Iím proud to pimp Rjd2 verbally and on my column.† Rjd2ís fame spreads through people recommending music, and as long as Rjd2 keeps doing his thing, his popularity will spread. He wonít be popular in the sense that people will have just heard his name; Rjd2 will be popular with everyone because they actually like his music.† Why? Because Rjd2 is that damn good.