Ramble Jon Krohn was already a hero to those in the know, for his daredevil displays of turntablism and his dope discs on Def Jux, when “A Beautiful Mine” off 2006’s Magnificent City became the theme for Mad Men. He came off as a bit of a beat-building James Bond – suave, elegant, a bit perverse, with sharp wit, a sturdy right hook, and various clever tricks concealed in his shoe heel.
Having earned his merit badges, RJD2 has only so much to prove, and he doesn’t try to prove much on his latest album. Following 2016’s intense Dame Fortune, and the strange synth-tone detour of Tendrils (as The Insane Warrior), his latest is about little more than having a good time, as the title suggests. Let’s call it his Casual Friday album, blended with a bit of Throwback Thursday.
A key sound element here is chunks of phone chats with contemporaries like Phonte, Mr. Lif, and Kid Koala, and a key theme is maintaining the flame of hip hop’s golden age, with the soul, funk, and disco that fed it. The excellent “A Genuine Gentleman”, reuniting RJD2 with veteran MC Aceyalone, demonstrates this decisively.
Some of the games at RJD2’s little get-together kinda suck, like the vexing “20 Grand Hotel” (I’m sorry, is that slap bass supposed to funny?). And of course, his idea of fun includes detours in the dark and dastardly – “High Street Will Never Die” offers no assurance that someone might not get got on that stretch of asphalt, and “My Very Own Burglar Neighbor” has a delightfully spooky streak as well.
What the listener will likely keep coming back to, though, is the big, blatant, basic-model bumpers, especially the convincing opener “No Helmet Up Indianola” and the very generous “Flocking To The Nearest Machine” – easily the most fun of these Fun Ones.