Sounds like: An extremely gifted beatmaker who has a love/hate relationship with his drum machine.
For fans of: Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Elliott Smith.
Latest release: The Colossus, a 2010 album that sees the producer return slightly to his funk and soul roots but still spurn his former sample-heavy ways in favor indie experimentalism.
Why you care: There was a time when RJD2 seemed poised for stardom. His 2002 album, Deadringer, took instrumental hip-hop to the next level by featuring songs that went beyond samples and drum machines and told stories through rich instrumentation and catchy melodies. The album featured multiple tracks—such as the irresistibly bouncy “Ghostwriter”—that caught the mainstream’s ear and were eventually featured in everything from cheesy bank commercials to ads for British aspirin. The album’s popularity led Definitive Jux label owner El-P to declare that it “would change the motherfuckin’ world.” Since then, however, RJD2’s buzz has dwindled significantly, mainly due to his decision to leave sampling behind and start singing and playing instruments himself. The Third Hand, his third album, plays like an odd assortment of unsuccessful mash-up tracks. But, despite his missteps, RJD2 remains a talent, and when his ventures into music theory actually work out, he’s still capable of releasing good music: “The Shining Path,” off The Colossus, for example, manages to combine his soulful past with his new songwriting direction quite well—a sign that his two musical paths may come to harmonize in the future.
SEE IT: RJD2 plays Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., with Manic Focus and Medium Troy, on Saturday, Jan 12. 7 pm. $24.50. All ages.