The Metamorphosis of Rjd2

Posted June 13, 2007 in
Rjd2, also known as Ramble John Krohn, can’t quite remember when or why he first got into music. As a child, he was constantly surrounded by music and art, growing up in a performing arts household, where both of his parents were heavily involved in all types of dance and music. With all this creativity surrounding him at a young age, he was destined to be an artist of some kind.

“If I was a lawyer, that would have been my form of rebellion,” said Rjd2.

Rjd2’s first musical influences were Prince, Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk and The Beatles. His love of music lead him to attend Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center in Columbus, Ohio, a public school for students interested in the study of art and music. This is where Rjd2 learned the basic elements of composition and playing technique. There, he met a friend that turned him on to hip-hop and started taking him to shows. Rjd2 bought his first set of turntables from this friend. In 1999, Rjd2 began DJing for the Columbus rap group MHz. He later produced his first solo record Your Face or Your Kneecaps, in 2001 which caught the attention of El-P and his record label Definitive Jux. This lead to several collaborations with Blueprint under the group name Soul Position which began in 2002 and collaboration with Aceyalone, titled Magnificent City, in 2006.

Rjd2’s released two solo albums for Definitive Jux, Deadringer (2002), and Since We Last Spoke (2004). Both resulted in comparisons to artists like DJ Shadow, Blockhead and Prefuse 73. These DJs helped define a form of music based solely on samples from other records, known as turntablism, but all eventually moved on to different things the majority becoming more involved with hip-hop and emcee collaborations.

Instead, Rjd2 has taken the singer/songwriter route, deciding to craft electronic pop songs similar to Beck. On his third solo release, The Third Hand, released this spring. Rjd2 sings and plays everything on the album except the drums, which are sampled.

“The first record was all samples with one keyboard part, the next was like 30 percent of me playing the instruments and singing. This record just felt natural, this was the next step,” said Rjd2

The Third Hand is a new beginning for Rjd2. He started creating pop songs after leaving Definitive Jux. According to Rjd2, this was intentional. “I approached the whole thing like I was a new artist. I did that on purpose. I didn’t want to be boxed into any kind of expectations and so I just shopped the album around to different labels.” Rjd2 landed a deal with XL, home to a variety of artists such as Tapes ‘n Tapes, Dizzee Rascal, The Prodigy and Thom Yorkes’ solo record The Eraser.

“XL made more sense. They have an eclectic roster that I really felt akin to.”

Rjd2’s live show has gone through some significant changes, too. For The Third Hand, Rjd2 incorporated a live band. His band consists of some of Columbus, Ohio’s legendary players such as multi instrumentalist Happy Chichester (New Bomb Turks, Howlin’ Maggie, Royal Crescent Mob and The Afghan Wigs), another multi instrumentalist Derek Descenso and drummer Sam Brown (Gaunt). This addition was to give the live show more variety.

Portions of the show are done with turntables; some songs are done with the band and then blended into both the band and the turntables. The set consists of a mix of songs of Rjd2’s three solo albums.

“It’s hard for musicians to just shut up. That’s one of the things we try to do with the live show.”

Rjd2 plans to continue evolving his sound.

“I’m just going to take it one day at a time. I’d love to do an R&B record. I’m still making beats; I’m still interested in electronic music and rock n’ roll. It will be interesting to see where things lead.”

To Rjd2, all music is the same which is why his influences and music are so diverse. To him, the starting points for all different genres of music are identical.

“At the end of the day, all music just reduces down to the groove and the beat."