Deejay, music producer
Fusing the worlds of hip-hop, rock, electronica, and soul, innovative DJ RJD2 creates an imaginative world where turntables know no boundaries. RJD2 manages to cull a myriad of emotions from the wheels of steel, providing bouncing hip-hop tracks that swell with hooks and contemplative laments that succeed at creating a somber world without a single vocal track. Aligning himself with the groundbreaking artists on Definitive Jux—home of El-P, Cannibal Ox, and Aesop Rock—RJD2 has created a niche for himself in a genre that tends to function on pure repetition and emulation. With two full albums under his belt as well as a host of collaborations and singles, RJD2 is always pushing the boundaries of what can be done with sampling, creating, what London's the Daily Telegraph said, "the soundtrack for an epic movie entirely of his own imagining."
RJ was born Ramble Jon Krohn on May 27, 1976, in Eugene, Oregon. Soon, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he would stay throughout his formative years. RJ soon stumbled into the art of DJing by accident. In an interview with Prefixmagazine.com, he said, "I never really wanted to be a DJ. What really happened was a good friend of mine, the guy who actually ended up giving [me] my name, was selling his turntables. I always bought and collected records. I never had aspirations to be a DJ or anything. He was selling his turntables and I was just like, 'F**k it, whatever.' It was ridiculous—he was selling two 1200s and a mixer and three crates of records for like $300." Further explaining his DJ synthesis, he told the magazine that, "He had all these 12" [records] in there, like the original Main Source 'Just Hanging Out.' And a lot of old 12" I didn't have 'cause I never bought singles when I was a kid. I would just buy albums. So he sold me the decks. I was just like, 'I'll mess around with them and if I don't like them I'll sell them.'" Unlike a lot of aspiring DJs, however, RJ had as difficult a time picking up the decks as he did deciding he even wanted to pursue DJing in the first place. "I didn't have anyone teaching me. I really didn't have a mentor. There wasn't anybody around that could show me shit 'cause all the kids that were around were rappers and the kid that sold me the decks just wasn't that good. It took me a long time, maybe like six or seven months, to just learn how to match two beats."
By 1998, RJ had gained enough confidence behind the ones and twos to begin working with Columbus-based hip-hop crew Megahertz as their resident DJ/producer. The group ended up releasing two 12" singles on Fondle 'Em records, but didn't gain much national exposure. In 2000, RJ ended up producing the single "Holier Than Thou" for former Megahertz MC Copywrite, who signed to Rawkus Records. But RJ just wasn't satisfied to exist solely as a producer for other artist's projects. RJ pricked the ears of Definitive Jux record label head El-P, and in turn was included on the Def Jux Presents… compilation for the first time as a solo artist. By this time, RJ had thrown himself full force into the practice of "digging"—looking for obscure records in which he can find samples for creating his musical collages. In an interview with the UK's Milkfactory.com, RJ spoke about his mindset when it comes to sampling. He said, "Let's say I find a loop or something that I want to use—you attach yourself to a particular aspect or emotion that you find in it—part of it is looking for like-minded sounds and part of it is just laying things out in a way that kind of helps accomplish what you want. It's what you can hear in a particular sound. I don't ever try and make things that have a wacky hodgepodge feel; I don't try and take things out of context. If I'm working on something that's got an '83 Cars-y rock vibe then that's what I'm going to shoot for, for the whole song. I want the whole song to fit with that, I don't want this '83 Cars-y rock thing with '68 soul vocals."
Functioning within that mentality, RJD2 released his debut Dead Ringer on Def Jux in 2002. The album featured a soulful collection of distorted samples that existed within the kind a kind of classic pop song structure that was rooted in hip-hop, but didn't necessarily fit that genre's specific aesthetic. In a review at Dustedmagazine.com, Daniel Thomas-Glass said, "Dead Ringer might be better understood as an introduction to a new (more complete?) RJD2, or at least a first look at other facets of his personality as a producer. Songs like 'Ghostwriter,' with its quiet guitar loop and more understated drums, are certainly different than what we've heard from RJD2 before, but it is a track that will leave your head bobbing for hours afterwards as it seeps into your subconscious with a layered second guitar riff, horns, and a unadorned chorus of voices (though about three minutes in, RJD2 f**ks with the drums in that way that has made him such a favorite amongst those in-the-know—and one of URB's Next 100 of 2002—simple beautiful work that induces breathlessness if you listen closely)."
Though the album was largely instrumental, there were some guests who added to its charm, as noted in a review on Mvremix.com. "The majority of the album is strictly dope beats with samples from older records or older media (such as television shows or movies), but there are a few tracks with actual guests. The Soul Position (RJD2 and Blueprint) provide us with the brilliant 'Final Frontier.' As a duo, these two artists click seamlessly. And, none other than my boy Jakki Da Motamouth is featured upon 'F.H.H.'(F**k Hip Hop), in which Jakki talks about protesting against today's hip-hop, expressing his views against conformity and rappers who only appear to be talented over great production." They went on to say that, "Dead Ringer is an exceptional debut instrumental album. If this album doesn't send RJD2 to the highest heights an artist can achieve (worldwide respect and the cash to accompany it), there's something wrong with the world we live in."
Following the success of Dead Ringer, RJD2 collaborated with numerous artists, including Prefuse 73, Diverse, and Vast Aire, as well as doing remixes for Massive Attack and Elbow. In May of 2004, RJD2 returned with another solo album, in the form of Since We Last Spoke, again released by Definitive Jux. Anticipation for the record was high, and considering the positive reviews, RJ's sophomore album delivered, albeit with a bit of a different sound. Dustedmagazine.com said, "Krohn is trying his best to expand his sound and that all begins with the vocals. While Dead Ringer focused primarily on lost soul and funk, Since We Last Spoke experiments with a wide range of voices as Krohn arranges his music to compliment each centerpiece. The understated European vocals on 'Making Days Longer' are met with equally modest strings and synth. Similarly, the Latin influenced '1976' and the exploration of 'Someone's Second Kiss' work well in reinventing Krohn's sound."
Your Face or Your Kneecaps, Bustown Pride, 2001.
Dead Ringer, Definitive Jux, 2002.
The Horror (EP), Definitive Jux, 2003.
Since We Last Spoke, Definitive Jux, 2004.
For the Record …
Born Ramble Jon Krohn on May 27, 1976, in Eugene, OR; moved to Columbus, OH, as a child.
Began DJing in group Megahertz in Columbus, OH, 1998; produced single "Holier Than Thou" for Rawkus Records artist Copywrite, 2000; released Your Face or Your Kneecaps on independent label Bustown Pride, 2001; signed to Definitive Jux Records and released Dead Ringer, 2002; released EP and video The Horror, 2003; released Since We Last Spoke, 2004.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 8, 2004.
"Dusted Reviews: Dead Ringer," Dusted Magazine,http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/208 (June 7, 2005).
"Dusted Reviews: Since We Last Spoke," Dusted Magazine,http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/1550 (June 7, 2005).
"RJD2," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 7, 2005).
"RJD2: Cutting Edges," Milk Factory,http://www.themilkfactory.co.uk/interviews/rjd2iw.htm (June 7, 2005).
"RJD2: Dead Ringer," MVRemix,http://www.mvremix.com/urban/reviews/2002/rjd2.shtml (June 7, 2005).
"RJD2: No Sound Barrier," Prefix Magazine, http://www.prefixmag.com/features.php?t=interview&f=rjd2 (June 7, 2005).
RJD2 Official Website, http://www.rjd2site.com (June 7, 2005).
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