by Jake Goldbas
There was a cool breeze on a hot night in Brooklyn for multi-instrumentalist DJ and songwriter RJD2 for a City Farm Presents show in Sunset Park. The DJ and producer used four turntables and a synthesizer, occasionally mixing in guitar and backing vocals. Some of his best works were with a live drummer and bassist, or alternatively with rapper STS aka Sugar Tongue Slim and a soul singer Khari Mateen.
RJD2, born Ramble Jon Krohn, served up an energetic, fast-paced show always singing, playing guitar, and making small talk with the crowd. The man is also constantly flipping the vinyl, always moving, scratching and chopping the turntables, deeply connected to the live audience by remaining headphoneless – a near-total outlier on the DJ circuit and a sign of a scratch DJ.
Krohn performed songs from his most recent album, Dame Fortune and the record with STS, released in 2015. “Doin’ it Right,” with the rapper was a huge highlight for the whole audience. STS’s vocals are high-pitched and cut over the bass with a loveable punky staccato-like jalapenos on a hamburger. The music is thrusting provocative hip-hop electronica. Snare drums snap through deep, murky, sludgy basslines and smooth horn samples. The music is inherently danceable, but not especially romantic. People swayed back and forth with only a few truly dancing. The slower tempos of the music are perfect for nodding one’s head up and down.
The music has infinite possibilities with the only consistency being a hip-hop beat. RJD2 samples soul music, plays synth or guitar, and even drops out to let his drummer and bass player play solo, giving the music space to breathe. The music has a super cool menace to it that explodes on a drum break.
The show was great in its sprawl of genres and instruments. For his rocking live shows and suspicious beats, RJD2 has a common lineage with DJ Shadow. The weird quilt of different instruments is made light of in 2014’s video for “Descended from Myth,” where a wall of instruments blast set to the track.
Ending the set was RJD2’s hit song, “Ghostwriter,” which uses a French guitar progression into a massive horn section. It was such a high note that the Krohn left seeming like there was much more to play, leaving the crowd wanting more.
To watch an RJD2 show is to submerge oneself in possibilities and ideas like a deep-sea diver. The music pulses and quakes with twists and turns, full band or solo DJing, lasers when the obvious choice would have been guitar, and astounding forgotten 1970’s drum breaks like so many fireworks. It was a bright, vivid, and spectacular show.
Images courtesy of the artist