Spanning 15 years, the recording career of RJD2 (aka RJ Krohn) is starting to exhibit the type of resilience generally reserved for golfers and bebop musicians. The relevance of this should not go unnoticed; it is increasingly rare for artists in the sphere of hip-hop and electronic music to maintain a presence this far into a career. 2013 will see the release of More Is Than Isn’t, his 5th proper full-length LP (7th, if you count “The Horror” EP and 2011's Inversions of the Colossus), on his own RJ's Electrical Connections imprint. But before we delve into that, perhaps a quick recap of years 1-14 is in order.
RJD2's first credit as a producer appeared via Bobbito Garcia's Fondle 'Em Records on the MHz 12" "Rocket Science" in 1998. Initially playing the role of a DJ/producer in a rap group, he cut his teeth in the heyday of indie raps' late 90's renaissance. While the group, which would usher both Camu Tao and Copywrite into solo careers, would see its ups and downs, this first step would lay the groundwork that led to a solo record deal on Definitive Jux, one of the 2000's more significant independent hip-hop labels.
RJD2's 2002 debut, Deadringer, would eventually become a zeitgeist moment within its own genre, and arguably outside it as well. Going on to sell over 130,000 copies, the record was both a critical and commercial (for an indie debut!) success. Deadringer’s "Ghostwriter" has appeared in numerous ad spots, television shows, and movies. Following the release of “The Horror” EP in 2003 and 2004's Since We Last Spoke, the ball kept rolling. Remixes, licensing deals, tours, and collaborations all ensued, all while expanding the palette of styles that could possibly be jammed into an album, furthering the obsolescence of the idea of "genre.” 2006-2007 saw both the move to XL Recordings for The Third Hand, as well as the release of Magnificent City with Aceyalone, which birthed one of the most recognizable songs in RJD2's catalog, "A Beautiful Mine." It doubles as the theme song to AMC's “Mad Men.”
But in 2009, the landscape of record labels had changed drastically since a decade previous. Never one to play things safe, RJ forged ahead with a newly minted record label, a box set, and plans for his 4th LP, The Colossus. The freedom allowed by having a label to release projects with national distribution has, in his own words, been one of the most creatively liberating times of his life. Along the way, there have been Soul Position albums, an Icebird LP, and some more odds and ends-which all leads to now, and a new album, More Is Than Isn't.
More Is Than Isn’t sees RJ incorporating new production techniques and approaches, while still keeping an eye on the basic aesthetic that has always driven him: soulful, melodic, beat-oriented music. A largely instrumental affair, the record does feature several vocalists: Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, Foreign Exchange), Aaron Livingston (Icebird, The Roots), rappers Blueprint, P. Blackk and STS, and Khari Mateen. Conceptually, the album is tied together by three instrumental pieces that are different explorations of the same harmonic theme. It captures a dynamic range not seen before on an RJD2 album, ranging from subdued jazz-tinged pieces to bombastic club music, and a lot of funk in between. Since last releasing an album, electronic music has continued to captivate the public's interest, and showed no signs of ebbing. The continuation of this movement gave RJ reassurance in the endeavor of making instrumental music. "In ways, all of my previous albums were in some fashion striving to achieve something more than being ‘just instrumental music’; this is the first RJD2 album I've made that actually revels in a relative lack of vocals," he states. The ethereal, beat-driven vibes of his debut album also make appearances now and again, with textural usage of gritty drum breaks, lush analog synths, and his ever-distinctive use of the MPC sampler. This record truly is a culmination of years of experience as both a producer and composer, bringing to fruition a record that stands on its own within the landscape of electronic and hip-hop music today.