RJD2 changes up his sounds, adds live instruments and tours with a full band

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:: RJD2 :: Boulder Theater :: May 9 ::
 :: Bluebird Theater :: May 10 ::

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By Tiffany Childs

It’s not too often that you see a hip-hop artist who began his career as a DJ touring with a full band. Then again, RJD2 is an artist that doesn’t like to rely on the same old boring routine.

Following the success of his two past releases — 2002’s Dead Ringer, and 2004’s Since We Last Spoke — RJD2 made what may have been the least expected move he could make. He left the label Definitive Jux and moved to a new label and genre.

“After my first two records I wanted to find a way to not rely on samples,” RJD2 told The Marquee in a recent interview. “This release is a result of that desire.”

On the newly released The Third Hand, RJD2 has moved his music into more of a garage-y pop style, using “vocal harmonies, some bad-ass guitar tones, very slight riffage, just enough piano and some tough-ass drums” to round out his sampler/sequencer stylings of the past.

For fans, that may seem a little off-putting, as it appears to discard everything they know and love about him as a hip-hop artist. However, according to RJ, that’s simply not true. “This album is a continuation of what I was doing before. The music is still the same. I’m just using different tools,” he said.

The tools are in fact quite a significant change from what RJD2 normally delivers. The most obvious variation is the use of live instruments. Although RJD2 is currently touring with a band to reproduce the sounds on the record, he actually plays all the instruments on the album himself.

Fortunately for old supporters, RJD2 somehow manages to remains true to his soul even with the addition of live instruments, the new label and the change of genres. In fact, RJ contends that all of those elements have fueled his already undying craving as a life-long student of music. “Music is more exciting than it’s ever been to me. I’ve learned more about music, in a general sense, in the last two years than I have in a long, long time,” he said.

As for the label change, RJ insists there are no hard feelings, “Leaving Jux was a hard decision for me to make…but for the folks who follow that sort of thing, I think it will make sense when you hear the new record. They (Jux) are a powerhouse within their arena, but I feel like I’m playing a different game now.”

The game that RJD2 is playing seems to be an adventurous one. Not many artists are daring enough to so thoroughly change their sound and risk alienating their existing fan base. RJ doesn’t seem too worried about that. “I don’t want to undermine the listener by assuming they don’t want to hear anything new. That seems semi-presumptuous and wrong,” he said.

Judging by the response to his current tour and album, RJD2 got it right. From D.C. to North Carolina to Chicago, fans new and old have been turning up in masses, proving that RJ has an irresistible style, clever lyrics and incredible staying power.

After working hard to put serious hip-hop credibility under his belt, RJD2 is moving on to challenge the pop arena. And he is inviting everyone to see how he measures up. “We have a good line-up that shouldn’t be missed, but you have to decide for yourself if you like what I’m doing,” he said.

:: RJD2 ::
:: Boulder Theater :: May 9 ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: May 10 ::

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