Beat This

RJD2's instinctive production style.

Think it's easy being a dope producer? Think again. Sure, it may seem like fun to make blazing tracks for MCs to spit over, but most knob twiddlers tend to be perfectionists who find it hard to enjoy the fruits of their labor. RJD2 is no different. "Each day that goes by, I get less and less satisfied with what I've done," he admits.

That might seem like a strange statement, since RJD2 has accomplished a lot in the last few years. Since bursting on the scene with Deadringer, he's become an alt-hip-hop A-lister, balancing solo albums with collaborative projects like his recent team-up with Aceyalone, Magnificent City, and the latest effort from Soul Position, Things Go Better With RJ and Al, also featuring rapper Blueprint.

The key to RJD2's technique is that he has no one style, and thus no limitations. "I've always wanted to be a chameleon," he says. That explains why Magnificent City and Things Go Better sound almost nothing alike; where the former offers up expansive soundscapes filled with carefully layered sonic textures, the latter is laid-back, relaxed, and highly minimal. On Things Go Better, he says, "I wasn't concerned with exercising my chops at all."

Not that RJD2 lacks technical skills. He went to music school, after all, and along with Prefuse 73 and DJ Shadow, he's made the progressive hip-hop instrumental into an art. As his career has evolved, he's "abandoned any pretense or affiliation . . . now it's kinda like I just want to find my own thing." His ultimate goal, he says, is simply "to make a good song." And to perform well. He adds that Soul Position's current stage set "is the closest I've ever gotten to what I want a rap show to be." Spoken like a true perfectionist.

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