Candidates for top 10 albums of 2002: Rjd2 - Deadringer
t the end of every year, you’ll find rushed “top 10 albums of the year” lists. But, since some albums are still new and exciting, others are stuck in their just-played-out phase, and you haven’t given radiohead albums enough of a chance yet, any judgment is premature. So, every year (starting last year) I go back and make top 10 lists for 10 and 20 years back—stuff from my lifetime that’s had enough time to marinate. 2002 is going to be tough to widdle-down so I’ll throw up some thoughts (re-reviews) on the candidates, over the next few weeks/months.
It’s fun to go back and cement yourself in a specific moment of music. I recommend it. It constantly blows my mind that two records I associate with completely different moods or even phases of my life—let alone the chronicles of the music itself—came out in the same year (i.e. Rage Against the Machine’s self titled and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic or Minus the Bear’s Highly Refined Pirates and Clipse’s Lord Willin’.) It’s worth a disciplined rewind. Enjoy…
This is probably the strongest argument, ever made, that sampling can be songwriting. The album is paced well and, despite using ostensibly only samples and maybe a drum machine and some synths, it has a consistent sonic aesthetic. The sound is grounded squarely in instrumental hip hop but it’s often cooked up with decontextualized morsels from other genres.
All the disparate pieces fit. Even Jakki da Motamouth’s half assed guest appearance on “F.H.H.”—in the first verse he says, “Take away their [other rappers’] dope beat, let ‘em rhyme and they weak” and later “some cats are crap without their tracks ‘cause they weak / I wish a nigga would say he listens to me for the beats”—works well to give some context for the other two guest rappers on the record who are much more impressive. (It’s ironic that the least creative of these, Jakki’s, is called “F.H.H.” which stands for “fuck hip hop” and rails against “mediocre bullshit.”)
More convincingly, Copywrite, in the first verse of “June”, raps that he’ll be an underground hip-hop artist until his “final mic check is cashed.” Then, after an instrumental section that gets you lost in synths and a plucked guitar—that can only fairly be described as absolutely beautiful—laid over Rjd2’s (by now familiar) disjointed drum samples, that lasts just long enough to convince you that Copywrite isn’t coming back, or forget he was ever there, he suddenly appears and drops an intensely intimate verse about his relationship with his relationship with his dad. It’s so well done: the clever first verse sells you on the song then, after Rjd2 eases you into inner reflection with his epic interlude, Copywrite comes back abruptly to exploit your emotional defenselessness.
But, even though I’ve spent a too much time talking about the rap on this record—words are just easier to write words about—these are only quick pit stops in Rjd2’s sporadic but tightly controlled collage. Although the instruments constantly change, there’s somehow a consistent aesthetic that makes this a cohesive record. The defining sounds are his hits and staccato cymbal and snare samples. But underneath is an assembly of samples so skillfully selected and collected together that the songs are completely original.
Highlights: “Ghostwriter”; “Good Times Roll Pt. 2”; “The Horror”; “June”; “Smoke and Mirrors”