The multi-faceted RJD2 had shown a knack for pushing the envelope throughout last decade. Releasing three genre-bending albums, the producer/deejay/singer-songwriter also revered as more than simply a novelty act, with several of his records crossing into the mainstream via TV ventures. Now reviving his early ’00s record label Electrical Connections, RJD2 aims to make a triumphant return with The Colossus.
“Let There Be Horns” kicks off the album with a burst of energy. Amid a barrage of horns and guitar licks, RJD2 timely places transitions between melodies perfectly, as if the song moves through different scenes of a movie. With no vocals present, the instrumental allows listeners to paint their own visual picture. The eerie chimes of “Games You Can Win” follow immediately afterward, with alternative vocalist Kenna relaying a cautionary tale about success. What works best about this record is the fact that it’s tightly knit, which prevents it from straying into obscurity. However, the jaded vibe is enough that it gives off a certain mystic.
Building on the strengths of his features, RJD2 enlists Phonte Coleman of Little Brother for the mesmerizing record “The Shining Path.” Staying within his element, Phonte takes the tune to another level. Subsequently, it would be a shame to let this record be their last collaboration, though Phonte does already have producer Nicolay to compliment his singing endeavors. “Crumbs Off The Table” is another great piece of work, featuring vocals from Aaron Livingston. Blending equal parts Funk and Soul, RJD2 displays his underrated ability of songwriting.
What detracts from The Colossus is essentially the same problem that brought down his 2007 release The Third Hand; his questionable singing. This is notable on “Gypsy Caravan.” What starts out serene soon turns into a hot mess of grunge acoustics and an out-of-tune RJD2. “The Glow” is bearable by previous standards, but once again suffers from a bland vocal performance. In effect, RJD2 is better off hitting his listeners with tracks like “Giant Squid” or “A Spaceship For Now,” instrumentals that invoke imagination, which allows the music to speak for itself.
Channeling the best attributes from The Third Hand and Since We Last Spoke, RJD2 has found a musical platform that is worth developing for the time being. In retrospect, calling this album “colossus” was a bit of a stretch seeing as how not one single record truly stands out. Despite that fact, The Colossus is a fairly solid effort, and it goes to show that RJD2 is still one of the top Hip Hop instrumentalists working in the industry.