Do Remember When RJD2 Showed A New & Different Side Of Def Jux (Video)

By the top of the 2000s, Rawkus was beginning to permeate the mainstream. Meanwhile, one of that label’s former flagship artists had left to create an imprint with the same sort of early DIY aesthetic and unpredictability. New York-based indie label Definitive Jux released a crate full of classic records that disrupted the underground on up. Co-founded in 1999 by El-P and Amaechi Uzoigwe, Def Jux introduced a new batch of new didactic lyricists, poets, and beat-makers onto the scene. Fueled by schizophrenic flows, laid-back demeanor, and political skepticism, these artists included Mr. Lif, RJD2, Aesop Rock, Murs, Cannibal Ox, C-Ray Walz, and the Party Fun Action Committee, and later, Cage, Cool Calm Pete, Del The Funkee Homosapien, Hanger 18, and Rob Sonic.

In a 2002 interview with Pitchfork, when asked what the vision of Def Jux was, El-P responded: “The vision that I hoped Rawkus would have: to put out consistently good and interesting music of different varieties with different voices and different production styles. Basically, have a record label that’s introducing new music to the world, something that’s guaranteed that to be interesting to you, and fun to you– everything is going to be quality sh*t. And musically, that is the only vision.”

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That same year saw the release of “quality sh*t” by the way of Columbus, Ohio DJ and producer RJD2’s debut album, Deadringer. Since Def Jux’s first release in the year 2000, the label began to showcase its own distinct output and knack for fusing electronic influences into Hip-Hop, as well as dystopian paranoid by way El-P, crushing future-foward boom bap by Cannibal Ox and Mr. Lif, and tongue-twisting spastic poetry by Aesop Rock. Deadringer, however, opened a lane for the New York City-based imprint to show off mostly Instrumental Hip-Hop projects, proving that not only did the label have talented wordsmiths aboard, but also innovative producers.

“The Horror” is the first track off of Deadringer and the only song on the album that has a music video. The official music video picks up what Deadringer‘s album cover teases, with RJD2 arising from the ground with a bloody head, running through the city in pursuit of a tape recording hidden in a toilet that reveals a cult’s mystery plans. The song itself is led by a barrage of horns and synths, with a sci-fi sample of a man repeating the words, “It’s time, time to understand the horror, It’s time, time to understand the monster,” scattered a few times throughout its 4-minute run-time. Cleverly, the track isn’t purely run on samples; RJD2 showcases his finest abilities with this song, choosing to reserve his sample choice until its needed for a cinematic effect.

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In fact, most of Deadringer plays out as a movie, even with its three guest appearances by Blueprint along with MHz band-mates Jakki da Motamouth and Copywrite. RJD2’s talents lie within building heavily orchestrated beats, complementing melodic bridges and breaks through turntable cutting, and picking samples that sound like dialogue rips from exploitation films. That initial style was first showcased with his 2001 mix, Your Face or Your Kneecaps. His cinematic style allowed him to soundtrack and score the 2006 PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PC game, Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure.

Today, RJD2 has stepped fully into the limelight with all aspects of his work within hip hop, trip hop, and electronic music, becoming a vocalist and releasing albums where he’s truly the star of his own movies. He was also one of the most sonic stand-outs out of all of Definitive Jux.