September 2, 2008

RJD2 On the Arts Quad: A D.J. At the Top of His Game

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Summer’s last sunset unfolds behind the Ithaca foothills as RJD2 readies himself to unleash a rhythmic, bass-infused assault on the Arts Quad. Fiery Maker’s Mark fumes seeping from the pores of the blonde girl to my left, while to the right an easily identifiable sweet and pungent aroma sets the olfactory stage.
Needle hits vinyl: Pop-crackle and snap! RJD2 spins the crowd into motion from behind an arsenal of three turntables and a synthesizer. Trippy projector at his back, the D.J. — real name Ramble John “RJ”
Krohn — fluidly matches hand-pounding licks to diverse clips ranging from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to The Matrix.
Though RJD2 has seen his star fall to mash-up sensation Girl Talk and rising Brooklyn duo Ratatat, the well traveled D.J. hasn’t lost a beat, tapping the famed “Ghostwriter” remix to whip the largely skeptical Ivy League audience of freshmen, stragglers and music snobs into an absolute frenzy.
Leading with an ambient/electronic blend of stiff piano and fuzzy bass, RJ wastes no time in forcing trailblazing hipsters into a mesmerizing pattering of head-bobbing and heel-pumping. Frightened freshmen clear to the back, freeing room for the brazen to cut loose and shake it.
What appears to be a miniature 95-pound version of a Cornell student is nearly knocked out by an errand flying backhand, receiving a surprisingly apologetic and reasonably coherent, “Sorry little dude, but if ya come on inta my dance stadium, yer prolly goanna take a wack or two.” Not to be underestimated, however, the kid fearlessly leapt forward, unleashing a series of thoroughly impressive moves. Go figure.
The once sparsely distributed audience inches closer and closer to the stage. We’re a sea of oneness now. RJD2 throws a haunting gospel and echoing synthesizer into the mix, allowing for the mitigation of crippling self-awareness. Once painfully self-conscious students shake it to the thick, complex beat, as bodily control is happily surrendered. Surreptitiously, the ringleader retreats from his turntable, rifling silently through his pile of vinyl in search of a silver bullet.
As gospel harmony dies down, the buzzing Arts Quad, on the edge of delirium, anticipates a climax. Building suspense with a volume-escalating trumpet and synthesized metronome, a raspy “Hit me with the brass rack, baby! Throw it down, Ramble! Give it to me NOWWWWW!!!!” erupts from the front row.
RJ, countering at the peak of his lungs: “SEEIN’ AS YA ASKED SO NICE ’N ALL … YAAAAGOTTTT IT!!”
BANG! Signature horns burst forth in an explosive and triumphant chorus, as RJD2’s fans, now hysterical, are thrown, tossed and warped by the music. Hollering unintelligibly, at least half the crowd is airborne, arms waving amidst the clouds. RJ is at war with his record collection, leaving no notch unexplored, no groove unscratched.
Moments of uninhibited, cathartic release are hard to come by around these parts, but RJD2 hand delivered Cornell several of them free of charge last weekend. Asides from a cliché political rallying call the D.J. was flawless; spinning, sampling and reworking tunes, at the top of his game.