RJD2 The Third Hand

RJD2 said he was done with hip-hop but that’s not entirely true. Despite the Ohio-bred, Philly-based producer’s claims that The Third Hand would be a strictly pop affair with entirely live instrumentation played by him with his own singing, there’s more than a hint here of his past as an underground super-producer. RJD2’s shift away from hip-hop has been building gradually for a while; his debut, 2002’s Dead Ringer, was a furious, head-nodding masterpiece of oh-so-rich, sample-based hip-hop, but his more down-tempo follow-up, Since We Last Spoke, saw him moving in a different direction with some rock dabbling. The Third Hand completes the departure, featuring mostly keyboard- and handclap-driven pop, with RJD2’s unassuming, soft falsetto acting as another instrument in the mix, bringing to mind late period Spoon or Phoenix. But it’s the drums that blow his cover; the unmistakably hip-hop drums on tracks like "Laws of the Gods” and "Get It” nod authoritatively to RJD2’s past. In fact, "Get It,” with its emotive strings, tinkling piano keys and break beat percussion, is almost too good; it’s a perfectly hewn-together hodgepodge that’s reminiscent of RJD2 at his best. That it’s followed by a catchy but unremarkable folk interlude furthers the point that frustrating as it may be for a talented, restless musician, RJD2 is great at hip-hop but only good at pop. (XL)