Ramble John Krohn, or more famously RJD2, enters the New Year fully equipped, triggering the release of a new studio album and a full fledged five leg international tour starting January 2010. On January 19th, his fourth studio album The Colossus will hit, brewing up a much anticipated and fan-feigning return to RJ’s signature collaborative and instrumental hip-hop methodology.
The album will be the first one released on his newly established label, RJ’s Electrical Connections, and includes guests Phonte Coleman, Kenna, Aaron Livingston, Columbus MC’s The Catalyst, Illogic and many more. As RJ explains, his previous album, The Third Hand, was a mission to do as much as he could do on his own, without any outside influences. The Colossus takes a complete opposite approach, trying to incorporate and include as many outside influences as possible, which RJ gleefully boasts he succeeded in doing.
Jambands sat down with RJD2 to discuss the release of The Colossus, his largest tour to date, his debut behind the drum kit, touring with a backing band and much more.
The album revisits the instrumental/vocal hip-hop collaborative format fans experienced in your breakthrough studio album, Deadringer. Did you intentionally return to a technique or feeling you held when producing Deadringer?
I don’t really see it as going back to one particular thing as much as going back to a number of broad things. I don’t personally see it as a return to the style and working of Deadringer for the whole album per se. There were songs in which I essentially used a sample only methodology to produce them and there were many other songs in which I didn’t. So there are some hints of the former album and then there are differences.
Why did you decide to go back to featured vocals on tracks (as well as singing yourself) other than predominately instrumentals and samples as you demonstrated on The Third Hand?
As far as instrumental dominance, when I look at Deadringer and Since We Last Spoke, both of those records were attempts to have as much of a vocal presence as possible. So while I think that it’s accurate to say that I’ve by-in-large spent a lot of time doing sample-based music, I don’t personally feel like instrumental music is necessarily me completely. It’s a big part of what I’ve done, but at the same time I think that if I were to go song by song down those records, at least 50-60% of the tracks will have varied vocal elements. The vocals may not be loud, but whether they are sampled or live they’re still present. It was a very cognitive thing making this record and that was kind of my mission. I mean there was a very conscious effort involved throughout it. I remember in the late ‘90s when I first started getting serious about this, creating my own music or whatever, I remember that my angle on “instrumental hip-hop” was that I wanted to make short & lively vocal-oriented pop songs. The goal was to get as close to that as possible by using the same techniques or approaches that by and large people didn’t think “instrumental hip-hop” normally used. I just remember that being a conscious goal that I wanted to achieve.
How much studio time was spent on The Colossus compared to your previous studio releases?
The record came together sometime around January or February of 2009. I started working on it pretty much when I completed and released The Third Hand. So around some time in 2007, but the bulk of the work happened from around fall 2008 through the winter of 2009. It’s hard for me to remember the exact date, but part of the way I work is that I develop ideas and little sketches of music. Sometimes those things develop really quickly and some of the songs come through right away. And other times they just sit. If it’s not coming out or it’s not working, I never force it. So I just let it sit. And a lot of times those things end up in the dust bin or the garbage and they never get revisited. But sometimes I will go back and revisit them and what needs to happen for it to progress is having a fresh perspective where the piece of music should go.
*As you said before, you invited guests to join you on some tracks of The Colossus. Can you talk a bit about the process of scheduling and the impact that may have had on the music?
As far as the collaboration portion, all the instrumentation parts that I didn’t play were tracked in the studio, and that was labor intensive having to get everyone scheduled, getting charts or writing charts. So that was a bit labor intensive. But the other songs, the vocal songs, the only one that was recorded in studio was “Crumbs Off the Table” where I had been working with Aaron Livingston a little bit. The other thing that made it easy was that all the collaborative songs were still songs that I wrote all the vocal parts, melodies and lyrics, so I was recording songs that were technically already finished and demoed. So it was a lot quicker because of that. In the typical producer/vocalist collaboration, the vocalist is writing and that makes it take a lot longer. But when I worked with Phonte Coleman, he had the song (“The Shining Path”) done in a week (laughs). You know, it was just like, here are the lyrics, here’s the demo, here’s the instrumental and it’s done.