GK finds the long time Funkdub hero has still got the funk…
RJD2 records and Funkdub go waaay back. Back in the early noughties his mind blowing debut “Deadringer” was a mainstay in the record box at any back room or garden shed that would let us play. When we first started the night properly in 2004 the first album & “Since We Last Spoke” both went straight into the bag. The combination of head nodding hip hop, a soundtrack sensibility and an ear for a groove ticked all the boxes. The RJD2 sound was, and is, all the more singular coming as it does out of Columbus Ohio. For those of us living in the North West of the UK, Ohio is not a place that was classically associated with Hip Hop – but there is some pretty significant history from that part of the Midwest, most particularly The Alkaholiks; by serendipitous coincidence we’d paired RJD2 & The Alkaholiks in this all vinyl mix a few years back.
All of this is a pre-amble to the return of RJD2, we’ve constantly monitored his output, which has been consistent, and consistently interesting. New long player “The Fun Ones” lives right up to the title, because it’s a heck of a lot of fun. The album is structured as a mixtape, and at heart it’s a gutsy funk record. Album opener”No Helmet Up Indianola” has a chunky and thoroughly infectious groove and flashes of scratches dance across the track. That sets in train the vibe for the record which always maintains a spinal chord of funk, but steps into all kinds of different musical areas. “20 Grand Palace” combines vivid strings with a slapping P-Funk bass to meaningful effect, whereas “High Street Will Never Die” takes in some of the challenging sounds that were so much part of the Def Jux imprint back in the day, but opens out right at the end. Some of the most memorable tracks are when the captivating grooves are married to some outstanding vocal performances: “A Genuine Gentleman” is the straightest hip hop track on the album with long time collaborator Aceyalone, “One Of A Kind’ features another Funkdub favourite Homeboy Sandman, “Pull Up On Love” with STS and Khari Mateen matches head nodding rhymes with an out & out soul banger.
The other key feature of the album is the evocative quality of so many of the tracks, with or without vocals “The Freshman Lettered” and “Flocking to the Nearest Machine” are signature atmospheric instrumentals, “All I’m After” tethers that atmosphere to a spell binding vocal performance from Jordan Brown. “A Salute To Blood Bowl Legends” closes out the record in striking fashion, with a timely sample on the all important connective tissue between musical past and musical future. But to return to the start, the overwhelming feeling is, as the title aptly suggests, of a record that’s a real blast to listen to. Without a duff track this is some of RJD2’s finest ever work, which is no mean feat – essential listening.