Critics, fans, and time have not been the kindest to RJD2. After smacking the shit out of the Hip Hop underground with his masterful Deadringer debut, and The Horror EP (plus making noise alongside Blueprint with Unlimited EP and 8 Million Stories), the collective tide of praise has slowly waned. Even by the time his sophomore instrumental album hit stores the momentum of pre-internet-non-major-label underground was in the beginning stages of its derailment. After 2007’s The Third Hand, RJD2, much like his god-head predecessor DJ Shadow, had fans either annoyed at his new artistic proclivities, or simply not giving a fuck. With his fifth solo effort More Is Than Isn’t RJD2 attempts to bridge the many styles and techniques of his career, while flexing the production muscle that made many of us celebrate his talent.
The first third of the album has some of RJD2’s more loved approaches. “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request” is a heavy wall of sound full of hand claps, shredding guitar riffs, cascading electric filters and boom-bap drums. It feels equal parts New Orleans bounce and Beat Konducta in India. That song is followed by the nocturnal propulsion of “A Lot of Night Ahead of You”. A sinister synth roams above simple rock steady drums while manipulated key work goes wandering above the low end. It’s a moody reminder of RJ’s beat making power. The second half of the album finds the brilliant psychedelic funk rock of “Winter Isn’t Coming”. It calmly saunters its way into speakers only for RJ to drop the drums and bass like a bomb while he collages, edits, and manipulates the instruments and samples like an angry mafia boss. “Winter Isn’t Coming” is easily one of 2013 best instrumental moments.
Yet all is not well on More Is Than Isn’t. Some moments are just straight-up garbage. “Bathwater” is rinky-dink experimental bap with forgettable lyrical-miracle rap by P. Blackk. Near the album’s end “Love and Go”, featuring Aaron Livingston, is unfortunately tepid. And yeah, RJ decided to sing again on the bed time stories cornball fest of “Dirty Hands”. But to be honest, those aren’t the album’s biggest drawbacks. At least RJD2 is stretching himself (even if failing) in those moments. The album’s biggest flaw is too many songs are in the “yeah, this is cool, but I probably won’t listen to this ever again” category. More Is Than Isn’t made me wonder if after such a wealth of material spanning over 10 years, is RJD2 better suited for the EP format or landing placements on other singers’ and rappers’ full-lengths. While nowhere near bad, the album just leaves much to be desired from such a great talent.
3 out of 5
You can buy the album on Amazon.