… And we’re back! Welcome once again to the big show, Cornell. Prop up your feet; make yourself comfortable and ready for a new school year. Could I get you anything? A mineral water with a spritz of lime? A foot massage?
I do regret to say, dear readers, serving is not my strong suit, but how about I serve you a free show on the Arts Quad instead? You will forget all about your parched palate and your hurting high arches when you hear RJD2’s fine beats rip across the quad, Saturday, August 30.
RJD2 will be headlining the annual free show sponsored by the Cornell Concert Commission (CCC). Following in the relatively new, yet nevertheless grand, tradition of Arts Quad concerts, RJD2 represents a sort of turning point in CCC’s bookings, as RJD2 will be the first experimental hip-hop act brought to Cornell since the Roots raised the roof in 2002. Previously, the Concert Commission has hosted six free shows, including the National in 2007, Motion City Soundtrack in 2006, Virginia Coalition in 2005, They Might Be Giants in 2004 and Guster in 2000. RJD2, therefore, is the obvious turntable-toting outlier on this list.
So okay, what’s his deal, anyway, besides scratching Technic turntables? Ramble John Krohn (aka RJD2) started spitting his game in Columbus, Ohio as a rapper and producer. A friend nicknamed him RJD2, which stuck. Upon moving to Philadelphia, he signed to Definitive Jux, whose artists’ sounds did — and still do — imbue his style. Having a sound firmly planted in trip-hop with the edgy instrumental twangs of artists like Aesop Rock or El-P, RJD2 mostly likes to sample old soul recordings and vamp on them, creating a new, ever-changing soundscape like in the 2003 EP, The Horror.
Currently, RJD2 runs in the XL recording circle (along with M.I.A., Dizzee Rascal, Ratatat, etc.) The product of his relationship with the famed electro label is his 2007 recording, The Third Hand, on which he departs from his past hip-hop albums. Here, RJD2 shows off his vocal and instrumental chops, by playing all of the instruments and singing all of the songs. On this album, he goes a “softer” sonic route, especially evident in the song “Never Had it So Good”. While apparently emulating the old soul he loves to sample, he plays an indie rock, alternative tune more fitting for Spoon to play than for RJD2 to spin. All the same, RJD2 continues to stick to his funky, Motown/Stax-inspired style and exhibits that he not only can rap and produce, but can also create an excellent live-studio version of what he does best.
His past at Def Jux and his present at XL have morphed RJD2 into a winning combination of rapper, producer and singer/songwriter worthy of your listening time. Even if you’re just lounging on the quad or passing through, be sure to perk your ears around 8 p.m. when RJD2 takes the stage.