RJD2 has had a long and storied career as one of the defining artists of the indie hip-hop movement, largely responsible – alongside El-P – for shaping the sound of Definitive Jux Records, and many of the label’s affiliated artists. Largely an instrumentalist, RJ took the world by storm with his earliest releases, Dead Ringer and Since We Last Spoke. Between the two records, RJ found his tracks being tapped for car commercials and soccer team anthems, ultimately leading to perhaps his most high profile gig yet, providing the title theme to AMC’s Mad Men.
But since sample-based music can be quite expensive – either via clearances or lawsuits – RJ has had to find other means for creating his sound over the years. His latest, as always, cryptically titled album, More Is Than Isn’t, is a culmination of almost all of his projects, showing the depth of his catalog.
Largely instrumental based, RJ has crafted another solid LP that finds him speaking more through his beats and less through vocals. Songs like “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request” and “Behold, Numbers!” are so dynamic in structure that they don’t the added value of guest vocals, proving why RJ has been able to sustain a career this long based largely around instrumental beats. Things get heavier on songs like “Winter Isn’t Coming” and “A Lot Of Night Ahead Of You”, both of which create a properly chilled out vibe.
The album is almost equally split with vocal driven tracks, drawing largely from his catalog of previous collaborators. Icebird partner Aaron Livingston shows up for “Love and Go”, while Soul Position frontman, Blueprint helps close the album out with “It All Came To Me In A Dream”, perhaps suggesting that would be RJ’s next project. Little Brother/Foreign Exchange head Phonte Coleman kicks off the album with “Temperamental”, while new emcee P. Blackk holds his own on “Bathwater”. The best of all of these vocal cuts is “See You Leave”, alongside Roots-collaborators STS and Khari Mateen, which just might be the album’s most fully realized “single”, if you will. RJ even belts out a few notes himself on “Dirty Hands”, showing off just enough of his vocal chops.
The one thing missing from More Is Than Isn’t is RJ’s brand of stand out “banger”, which in the past came in the form of “Ghost Writer” or “The Horror”. Naturally RJ’s cavalier past use of samples has been stunted a bit, with hungry lawyers eyeing his beats for potential cases, and it does show to some degree. Nevertheless, RJ has crafted a very solid LP with More Is Than Isn’t, and entering his second decade as a solo artist, he doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon.
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