rjd2 – “Smoke & Mirrors”

Thank you, rjd2, for this sublime piece of music.

Every few years I come back to this listen from producer rjd2 and I obsess about it. RJ came to the fore in the early 2000s with his moody, punchy, and sample-heavy production, and over the years he has built up an impressive discography of solo and collaborative works which dabble in a variety of different genres. RJ is as dope handling production or remixing for rappers like MosJ-Live, or El-P as he is working with R&B singers like Son Little (Really, check out Icebird). He definitely is an unsung artist deserving of your attention.

RJ’s 2002 debut, Deadringer, is a fantastic record, employing slick turntable skills over grainy ’60s and ’70s soul and R&B samples, creating dynamic, desolate, and evocative vibes. It’s a perfect late-night burner with many strong moments, and “Smoke & Mirrors” reigns as one of my all-time favorite instrumentals.

“Smoke & Mirrors” is a haunting, shadowy affair. It’s a constantly churning listen, beginning with ominous notes that beat like a heart, rising in tension and bringing a looming sense of despondency and dread. The juxtaposition of vocal samples employed here are absolutely terrific, with the first singer questioning the future and the second responding, asserting that everything will be alright…although the song doesn’t sound all that reassuring. However, what really elevates this track into the stratosphere is that fantastic coda. Like a breaking wave the song dissolves into a very composed final minute which feels like the calm after a tempestuous storm. It’s an excellent piece of music, and for me, this listen sounds like how 2017 feels.