RJD2 is the Duke Ellington of electronica; a composer whose big band is built from organic and synthetic beats, molasses grooves, and swinging blasts of bass. And The Colossus, his fourth solo album and the first on his own RJ’s Electrical Connections imprint, is true to its name. This album is big.
From the funky bombast of the opening “Let There Be Horns,” RJD2 doesn’t look back, flipping genres like cards in 52 pick-up. From the neo-soul of “Games You Can Win” (with vocalist Kenna), to the trash-can melody of “A Spaceship for Now” and the classic-R&B-in-a-digital-world vibe of “The Shining Path” (featuring guest Phonte Coleman), it is clear: whether by himself or with friends (there are a several guests on this release), whether playing instruments or playing a machine, RJD2 can bring innovation with the best of them.
Despite the revered collaborators that appear on The Colossus and contribute vocals and rhymes, this is an album that could have been all RJ – and possibly even better. When The Catalyst, Illogic, and NP begin spewing verses on “A Son’s Cycle,” it is hard not to ask “why”? Although The Colossus is a classic and RJD2 covers much ground, the glory is diluted by these guests whose styles restrict the beat-master’s flow, coloring deft orchestration with an urban hue. The solo compositions are the true gems, “Giant Squid,” “Small Plans” and “The Glow” being true standouts.
The Colossus expresses an impressive amalgam of mediums and is a defining moment for RJD2. But more importantly, amid the stars that sparkle on the album, RJD2 is at a steady, heightened glow that will continue to grow brighter.
The Colossus is out now on RJ’s Electrical Connections.