RJD2

This hip-hop producer turned fledgling rocker hasnít turned his back on the boom-bap.

By Michael Roberts

published: May 10, 2007

I feel like I can't speak to the press anymore in a manner that I'd normally have a conversation," declares hip-hop producer turned fledgling rocker Ramble John Krohn, who performs as RJD2. Why not? Because he believes a couple of his offhand comments are being used to beat him up in respect to his latest CD, The Third Hand. He concedes that the disc (released by XL Recordings) is significantly different from 2002's Dead Ringer, his best-known platter; rather than employing rappers to rhyme over tracks, he decided to move in more of an indie-pop direction and do his own singing. Still, he bristles at the idea that this shift means he was never really into hip-hop in the first place -- a possibility floated by a Pitchfork scribe who noted that RJD2 once referred to some of his own productions as "moron music." After a rueful laugh, he says, "That's fucking funny to me. It's a ridiculous thing to assume. I have a hard time understanding how any piece of art can refute what someone did before."

He's equally upset at the way a flip remark he made about being "rap-free in 2006" has been twisted. "It was very obviously a joke," he says, and as proof, he points out that the two major projects he worked on last year -- Aceyalone's Magnificent City and Soul Position's Things Go Better With RJ and AL -- were both hip-hop-oriented. In his view, the number of people who took the line seriously proves "you can take anything out of context and make it look like almost anything you want."

As for The Third Hand, the album isn't as accomplished or confident as his previous work. The choicest cuts, "Get It" and "The Bad Penny," have the most in common with past recordings. Still, RJD2 deserves credit for taking a leap into the unknown -- not that he thinks he's doing anything especially unusual. "I don't know anybody who's involved in music who doesn't have that innate curiosity," he says. "Every rapper I've ever known is at least curious about how to produce a beat."

In some ways, performing his new material alongside live musicians is even more demanding than writing and recording it. But he embraces the challenge. "I went into this not being afraid of mistakes," he allows. "I feel like those are the kinds of things that let people know you're really having to focus and try. So right now, it's just a huge and intense learning experience, and it's so fun. Having a live band, for me, is a ton of pros at the moment, and I can't really think of any cons."

Unless they involve speaking with the press.

For more of our conversation with RJD2, visit www.westword.com/blogs.