Rjd2The Third Hand
Essential: "Beyond the Beyond"
As recent discs by Pharrell and Money Mark have shown, sometimes star producers and DJs need to check the ego, do what they do best, and leave the singing to those who can really pull it off. Indie hip-hop producer supreme Rjd 2 should have heeded this as he stepped up to the mike for this expansive 15-song set, which he produced and played all the instruments on. For someone who has dazzled with his sonic imagination in the past, Rjd 2 sounds very tentative here. The problems stem from his lack of vocal presence, though musically he acquits himself with a batch of keyboard-driven tracks. But for such a sharp producer, oddly, the songs are in dire need of hooks and rarely memorable. The record doesn't pick up a head of steam until more than midway through with the funky "Beyond the Beyond" and the neatly executed "Sweet Piece." There are little traces of his hip-hop track record as he tries to deliver a pop epic worthy of Brian Wilson or Fleetwood Mac. These songs really need a nuanced singer with serious pipes to work. [Ken Capobianco]