People think it’s easy being a deejay: You just spark your L in between syncing up some thuggish Beyonce and that same old tired Biggie joint and then you lay back, watching the fly downtown girls shake their skinny thangs and spill their boyfriend’s Kahlua. Next thing you know you got your b-boy codename all over the two hundred and twenty-first “In Da Club” remix, featuring guest vocals from Hillary Duff and that one French-sounding dude in Duran Duran. It’s been 10 years, they’re due for another comeback, right?
The last thing we need is another weed-fiend white-boy celebrity deejay. Difference between Rjd2 and the rest of the record-crate crowd is he has more than enough speed and intelligence, both of which are seriously lacking in the overstuffed turntablist genre. He manages to make his funk sound intimate, and his compositions are original collage style songs, complete with chorus structure and vocal lines. The DJ Shadow comparisons? Slightly off base, but those were compliments, man.
Leadoff single “The Horror,” which is the reason for this EP in the first place, is a good example of the formula that made Deadringer one of last year’s best albums. It’s based on a novelty keyboard sample that sounds like it’s straight out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style ’70s disco gore. It’s also interesting to hear the dreaded remix put to admirable use on the second and third tracks. “Ghostwriter Remix” is a blues take on the original. Whammy bars and bending strings augment the basic breakbeat, topped by some well-timed wordless moaning.
The abstract vocal line is Rjd2’s secret weapon, one he utilizes to add a personal touch to his Meters-style soul. The fact that lyrics are usually nowhere to be found only intensifies the sound. He takes the cliché of sweet siren over harsh beats and removes from it the generic diva personality. Nowhere is this better utilized than on “June Remix,” where an angelic female harmony lifted directly from Brian Eno’s Ambient 2 makes way for spacious beats. Unfortunately, the accompanying rhymes do no real justice to the superb breaks. On vocals, Blueprint makes some interesting statements about a frustrating relationship before falling into heard-that-before generalities like ” ’til my final mike check is cashed,” all delivered in a typically overbearing style.
Even where lyrics are present, Rjd2 makes the most of his retro vocals, like the “Bus Stop Bitties” sing-speak regarding “cornbreadcandied yamssoul food,” or the wonderfully glitched-up cabaret style “This show is over” line from “Final Frontier Instrumental.” The Horror miraculously avoids that deadliest deejay sin of running a loop into overkill, moving through 10 tracks in just over 43 minutes. But then, such is an EP in the hip-hop world. The second disc, filled with visual snippets of live performances and a “Making of the Video” video, feels like an add-on, yet it does contain some interesting interview footage of Rjd2 discussing his live technique. Don’t expect an album, because this collection feels more like a side note or a morsel dedicated to those hungry for a sophomore effort, but these beats could make even Jermaine Dupri’s flows sound tight. Or perhaps not, but everybody knows those fashionista party types never listen to the words anyway.