Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #10 RJD2
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
The 1990s had DJ Shadow, and the 2000s proudly claim RJD2. They go hand in hand – considering the similarities, no fan of either act should be caught turning their back on the other. Shadow pioneered a style that flashes a revivalist bent, until you realize you don’t exactly know which era he’s reviving. RJD2 picked up that natural sound, threw a drape over it, bent it out of shape like a magician, and came out with something completely fresh. When we picked up Since We Last Spoke and Deadringer, we knew they were instant classics; they were sample-heavy and expertly produced but seemed all-natural, soulful, exquisite and raw.
I’ll leave discussion of those albums to their respective appearances on our Top 100 Albums of the Decade list. RJD2 as an artist is essential for his versatility and musical vision. Deadringer highlighted his production chops, an impeccably arranged smorgasbord of hip hop, overdrive rock, blues, and blissfully kitschy throwback electronics. Since We Last Spoke dropped the guest MC appearances in favor of a more flexible, diverse album. But The Third Hand exemplifies his rare philosophy; at a time when he was arguably the best producer around, he stopped, you know, producing and made a 100% natural indie rock record. I wasn’t too keen on it, but it was still better than most other indie rock records at the time, and it showcased his willingness to completely buck expectations in favor of challenging himself. RJD2 is the example I point to whenever young musicians (or artists, period) tell me they’re hesitant to experiment. The point isn’t to succeed – it’s to expand your comfort zone. Given the scope of his work, RJD2’s comfort zone is a mile wide, and it’s the reason he’s cracked the top 10 in our countdown of the best artists of the decade.
- Phillip Taylor-Parker
Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.
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