RJD2 returns to true form

With less singing and more sampling, RJD2 is receiving praise.

Instrumental hip-hop artist RJD2 sprints to keep up with his hectic tour schedule. Be sure to catch him as he slows down just long enough to perform a show at The Blue Note this Thursday. Courtesy of RJ's Electrical Connections

Musician RJD2 is far more blue-collar than Gucci collar.

RJD2, whose real name is Ramble John Krohn, describes his style as jeans and a T-shirt, an anomaly for the bulk of the hip-hop music industry. His mantra of hard work carries over to his recent tour, which he is managing himself.

Beginning this January, the producer, singer and artist started traveling all over the country, playing in a new venue every night. It's a demanding process that Krohn said leaves him little time to relax.

Fans often overlook much of this work because it occurs outside the performance. While driving to his next city, which can sometimes take eight hours, Krohn is busy doing interviews, managing his record label, producing new music and prepping for his upcoming show.

Upon arrival at the venue, Krohn has to unload 1,500 pounds of equipment, go through various sound checks and rehearsals, perform, reload the van, drive back to the hotel and go to bed around 4 a.m.

"Touring is work," Krohn said. "It's amazing, it's rewarding but it's also really difficult."

Krohn said he loves his job and embraces its rigorous nature. He accepts the inherent responsibility by avoiding things that could hurt his performance, such as partying after a show.

"I have to stay two steps ahead of myself at all times," the Ohio native said. "If I'm sleep deprived or hung over there's no way for me to do the show at all, it'd be impossible."

Part of what makes his performance so demanding is the intricate show he developed which requires a lot of memorization.

Along with sampling and mixing, Krohn will also be playing drums, electric guitar, electric bass and keyboard. While playing these various instruments Krohn is also moving around on stage, performing choreographed routines. As if that weren’t enough, he also has two wardrobe changes.

"I've got some tricks up my sleeve," Krohn said. "If you're interested in what I do, this sort of thing is never going to happen again."

The show features some of his old music blended with a lot of his new songs. A four-person band accompanies Krohn on stage, but he also goes solo for a couple of songs, creating a very original show.

"I don't want to do the same thing twice, ever," Krohn said.

RJD2's latest album, The Collosus, came out Jan. 27 and echoes that sentiment. Krohn does a lot of different things compared to his previous album, The Third Hand. Critics slammed his 2007 album for trying to be overly complex with too many live instruments and singing.

Krohn's deviation from his previous work with his newest album has been met with a lot of praise because he cuts back on singing and increases his sampling. Critics such as Pitchfork say his album is a return to his true form featured on his first album, Deadringer.

Like the album, fan responses to the tour have been really positive.

"The shows have been going really well," Krohn said. "The crowds are really into it, showing me a lot of love, which is definitely the highlight of the tour."

RJD2 will be performing at The Blue Note this Thursday, Feb. 18. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15.

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