Every Friday Night at 12 it’s the “Midnight Album Feature,” when I bring you one of the albums from my personal collection and give you some history and also talk about the way the album feels, what it means to me.
Tonight’s feature is on RJD2 and his debut album Deadringer. It was released in July 2002 on the Definitive Jux label. RJ is now based in Philadelphia, but heâ€™s originally from Columbus, Ohio. Heâ€™s a producer and multi-instrumentalist so heâ€™s put together a lot of these layers himself. He pulls in all kinds of samples, on this album, from Elliot Smith, Pat Metheny, Brian Eno, and also a folk singer Chris Williamson, who Iâ€™ll tell you about in a little bit. He’s influenced by DJ Shadow, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and you can hear all of that on this album. It is a combination of electronic and soul and rock.
I love songs with a spy movie feel and the opening track “The Horror” definitely has that.
RJD2 started out as a DJ for Columbus band Megahertz. More recently he’s been collaborating with Columbus rapper Blueprint; they relocated to Philadelphia together, as the hip hop duo Soul Position. They’re more straight up hip-hop than what he does on this album. Deadringer has anywhere from a hip-hop to a spy movie feel and there’s also some very basic trip hop. The samples are three-dimensional and the lyrics are very wise.
The song “Smoke and Mirrors” samples a record my dad had when I was nine years old. It’s by a folk singer called Chris Williamson. She was one of the first lesbian folk singers to hit it big in the 70s. This was a really big deal in my dad’s world, that he had the latest record. I listened to that record quite a bit trying to sound like her (I was always singing as a kid), because dad liked her so much. This song samples Chris Williamson singing “sometimes it takes a rainy day just to let you know everything is going to be all right.” The song is “Smoke and Mirrors”. It’s one of those tracks where past (California, folk music, childhood) meets present (Seattle, rain, “smoke and mirrors” is a radio term, electronic music, adulthood). Perfect.
Rjd2 is such a talented producer, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and a very humble guy. I met him here at the station when Soul Position came in. They played a rippin’ set. Afterwards everyone went up to the rapper Blueprint cause he’s all up front. I was the one who shyly slunk up to RJD2 and said, “Hi, I’m your friend on myspace, I’ve been talking to you in cyberspace for a while, I’m Micheleâ€¦” and he said, “Oh, that’s not me on myspace. The guy tells everybody that he’s me and has conversations with people but apparently he’s pretty nice to them so at least it’s not some kind of weird thing.” He also told me that he’s tried to get the name on myspace back from the guy who is the fraud but the RJ-imposter won’t give it up. I actually wrote the imposter and told him,”you must love RJD2’s music, so you must understand how important it is for him to have this page.” I didn’t get a response.
I definitely recommend a sit-down with this album all the way through.
Michele Myers host “Nite Life” every Friday at 9pm. This week’s focus is on the bourbon-soaked vocals of Tom Waits’ and his latest release Orphans, a 3-disc collection of barroom ballads.
The Midnight Album Feature is produced by Janet Cavallo and Michele Myers.