Young R.J. may have only been twenty-two when he recorded Dirty District 3, but that doesn’t mean he’s green. He ghost-produced and manned the boards on Slum Village’s 2001 opus, Fantastic Vol. 2, and formed B.R. Gunna with Black Milk to produce two more Slum Village albums (Detroit Deli and Slum Village) and released B.R. Gunna’s Dirty District Vol.2 mixtape, in addition to being credited for a host of other projects. He’s done a lot in a little time.
With Dirty District Vol. 3, Young R.J. steps up to handle the production duties on his own and shows his abilities as a solo artist. As expected, Dirty District Vol. 3 embodies the inimitable sound coming out of the Detroit hip-hop scene. Whether it’s the soulful Motown samples, the nasty synthesized melodies, the gritty lyrics, or the skillful wordplay, Dirty District Vol.3 is a true representation of Detroit. (Still, the sound can be a bit too clean at times, lacking the griminess that makes a Detroit album a Detroit album.) Aside from Planet Asia, who contributes a verse on “Magnifi,” every guest artist is from the Detroit area. Black Milk drops a nice little guest shot on the “Welcome to the District” while Dwele croons over a smooth, funky beat on “Count Back (Hope It’s Not My Baby).” The album’s most interesting song is “Yo Mama,” but it’s not because of its slightly oedipal lyrics. It’s because Young R.J. takes the same sample that Black Milk used on his own mixtape (“Bang Dis Shit” off Sound of the City Vol. 1) and flips it in a totally different way, offering a look at how the two are different from each other.
Young R.J. succeeds admirably on his first major solo foray, delivering a polished, coherent product that is a step above a mixtape in terms of production quality. He’s able to take that sound and deliver it in a more accessible package. The R&B/neo-soul feel of Dirty District Vol. 3 makes that evident. Not to take away from the solo efforts of Black Milk and Young R.J., but the ability to find a happy medium between the two members’ contrasting sounds is what makes B.R. Gunna so special. The duo is a hit away from becoming a household name, and its members are only in their young twenties.
Label (streaming audio): http://www.barakentertainment.com/