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RJD2:: Third Hand (Album Review)

From its opening instrumental lullaby, The Third Hand crafts a double-edged case for Rjd2’s departure as the Definitive Jux label’s reigning hip-hop producer-of-record. On the one hand, there’s nary a straightforward hip-hop cut to be found; Rjd2 plays every syrupy lick of these 15 tracks himself, mostly eschewing his much-used sampler in favor of live instruments and the voice he began testing with 2004’s Since We Last Spoke. On the other hand, hip-shakers like “Reality,” “Get It,” and “Sweet Piece” offer evidentiary beat-workouts that suggest Rjd2’s Jux-taposing his past with a newly insular approach to pop composition that bears almost no resemblance to the rhythmic spine that anchored 2002’s Dead Ringer and recent outings, with emcee Blueprint, as Soul Position. On The Third Hand, this strange, new alchemy melds a seasoned confidence on the boards with a boldly accruing taste for tempered textures and shifting chord progressions (“You Never Had It So Good,” “Laws of the Gods,” “Paper Bubble”). The result is a watershed. Long-time fans with elastic adoration will turn a thrilling corner, and for those less ready to follow Rjd2s explorations, there’s “Rules for Normal Living,” which proves that the man can still modulate a bass like nobody’s business.
(Jason Kirk)