RJD2: The Main Ingredient

Columbus, Ohio’s RJD2 first earned a name for himself with 2002’s Dead Ringer, an engaging and creative instrumental hip-hop album that quickly garnered massive critical acclaim and put him in the upper echelon of the genre. After numerous side projects and remixes, he recently released Since We Last Spoke, a wildly eclectic album that focuses […]

Columbus, Ohio’s RJD2 first earned a name for himself

with 2002’s Dead Ringer, an engaging and creative instrumental hip-hop

album that quickly garnered massive critical acclaim and put him in the upper

echelon of the genre.

After numerous side projects and remixes, he

recently released Since We Last Spoke, a wildly eclectic album that focuses

as much on his songwriting abilities as on his beat-making ones.

Like his beats, RJ’s speech takes multiple ideas

and lays them all down at once, with many more sentences started than finished.

Allhiphop.com was one of the first media outlets to buzz in RJ, so we had to

see how our boy was kicking.

AllHipHop.com: When Dead Ringer came out,

you said you wanted your next album to be more cohesive. Did this goal change

while you were making Since We Last Spoke and if not, do you feel you’ve

accomplished this?

RJD2: Personally, I feel like it’s a cohesive

piece, but it might be a little bit schizophrenic for the listener. If you were

listen to the most quiet moment on the record and then the loudest song on the

record, it might not make any sense, and I didn’t realize that going into the

record. To me it’s cohesive because other than this one vocal performance, everything

else I did, so for me this is kinda a selfish record, ya know?

AllHipHop.com: Was it a conscious decision to

put more of an emphasis on songwriting on this one?

RJD2: It’s been my goal for a long time even

with Dead Ringer, when I started on that record. When I started doing

solo records, I kinda thought, well what is everybody else doing and what are

peoples’ specialties and what aren’t people doing. So-and-so can do drums better

than me, and so-and-so’s got the fresh loops. I can’t do any of these different

things so I gotta find something that I can do. I feel like the biggest challenge

was to approach things like a song and try to make a bunch of s**t happen in

close to three and a half minutes.

AllHipHop.com: It sounds like you’re making music

based on your own perception of your limitations.

RJD2: Yeah, but I want to get past the limitations.

By nature, if you’re working on a sampler and you’re making beats and stuff,

there are easy tendencies to fall into. One of those tendencies being just making

things that’s repetitive and loopy, and that’s just the nature of making anything

that’s sample-based. That’s why Rap music is repetitive. Because it’s easy to

make it. A lot of Rock bands’ songs are in E because it’s the easier key to

play in than another key. For me I try to meet those things head on. Early on

I decided, the hardest challenge on a sampler would be to make it sound like

it’s not a sampler. Approach it using the methodology and approaches that bands

use and I was trying to do that on Dead Ringer, I just don’t think that

I had my s**t together.

AllHipHop.com: Did you have any sort of concept

for the album going into it?

RJD2: Initially, there was. But I abandoned it.

I was thinking, what if I could try to make a record that was what I was hoping

these Rock records by The Strokes and The White Stripes were gonna be? I like

the Strokes a lot, but the rhythm section didn’t smack like I wanted it to.

I wanted the album to be melodically inspired by those groups but the rhythm

section inspired more by R&B. So I started on that and that’s why some of

the first songs sound maybe a little bit rocky and then after a point, I just

said, this is stupid. And there were times when I’d be just making s**t not

like that, but fun and I was enjoying myself. So I abandoned the idea of having

an agenda or a concept album.

AllHipHop.com: Did Rock have as much of an effect

on you growing up as Hip-Hop?

RJD2: Yeah, it definitely did. Rock is my thing.

I think the overall, general ethic behind my favorite Rock records and my favorite

Hip-Hop records is exactly the same. It really, really makes sense to me from

a musical standpoint why Rock played such a huge part as sample fodder in early

Hip-Hop. There’s a part of me that kinda feels like I’m almost shooting for

the same thing. There isn’t a lot of difference in my head.

AllHipHop.com: Have you heard any songs that

you’ve given other rappers that you wish you kept for yourself to experiment

with more?

RJD2: Nah, I’m glad that that s**t’s out there.

I don’t want to be the guy that gives all of his second-rate s**t to the rappers.

I’d like to have some decent s**t floating out there. Maybe 100% of that attention

isn’t diverted directly back to me. I can live with that. For the small handful

of people that know I did [Diverse’s] "Big Game," these are dumb,

little 4-bar loops that are as least as difficult and important as any of the

technical s### I pulled off on [this album].

AllHipHop.com: How much of the live show is improvised?

RJD2: Oh, none of it. Little parts can change

here and there but the segways from one portion to another can’t change because

that s**t’s so hard to work out. It’s not the kind of set where it’s like, "Oh

you got two minutes of an outro so just mix in the next beat whenever you want."

Even the MPC s**t is set up in a manner that’s like, ok, well this beat, you’ve

got eight bars of outro. And when it’s done, the beat stops. So if you don’t

have the next record cued up and blended in, you’re f***ed. There’ll be silence.

And you’ll be standing there, in front of a big crowd of people with no music


AllHipHop.com: What equipment do you use on stage?

I saw 4 turntables and a MPC.

RJD2: That’s it. I want it to be some simple

s**t that everybody can understand.

AllHipHop.com: And you don’t use a lot of equipment

when making beats, right?

RJD2: Naw, pretty much the MPCs.

AllHipHop.com: Would you change anything on Dead Ringer now?

RJD2: Yeah, there’s songs I’d cut. Part of the

arrangement of [this album] was I wanted to have it real tight. I didn’t want

to have any portions that were unnecessary for the song. And I felt that there

were things on Dead Ringer that were just a little too meandering for

my taste. Like, something like "Silver Fox" I don’t think even needs

to be on there. With this new record, I was trying to make a record that was

just short and to the point. Even if you didn’t like it, you could appreciate

that it was direct.

AllHipHop.com: Do you have any sales expectations?

Will you be disappointed if it doesn’t do well?

RJD2: I’ll be honest with you, I got the first

week’s Soundscan numbers and I was a little disappointed just on a business

sense. Dead Ringer didn’t really start to sell until three months after

it was out.

AllHipHop.com: Do you take it personally?

RJD2: Naw, it’s just business. It’s just music.

Really to me, it’s just business s**t. Did we spend enough on marketing? Did

we approach this right? Did we get the single out on time? All that stupid little

s**t that doesn’t matter [to the average fan].

AllHipHop.com : What’s the most important thing

you learned about on the business end between albums?

RJD2: You can have a manager. You can not have

a manager. But the bottom line is: you have to at least care what’s going on.

The people that are really successful are the people that could manage themselves

but choose not to. I’m in the process of trying to find a manager that I can

work with but it’s just, I’ve done this s**t for so long, I have control issues

now. It’s a matter of finding a person that you can trust to make sure s**t

gets done ’cause if it doesn’t get done, it’s your ass.

AllHipHop.com: Do you feel a need to try and

reinvent yourself with each future album?

RJD2: Definitely. I felt like I’ve played the

consistency game. After Dead Ringer came out, there was the Soul Position

record, the Diverse album, the Aceyalone record, all this s**t I did was basically

normal Rap music, where I was doing this simple Rap beat thing and it was fun

and cool, 95 beats per minute, chop your s**t up, whatever. F***in’ m#### music.

I like it, but it’s still m#### music. When it came down for this record, it’s

like, what’s the point of re-recording some other s**t? It would be cheap of

me. I couldn’t be honest. This record is as honest as I can be in terms of just

sitting down and saying "This is what I feel." If I had tried to do

another Dead Ringer, it would’ve just been a marketing gimmick to me.

It might have gotten better reviews but that’s not what it’s about. I understand

if people think, "Oh this s**t’s soft or corny." At the end of the

day, I don’t get bent out of shape about it. This is at least a representation

of the music that I like.