In his 14-year career, Philadelphia producer RJD2 has deftly genre-hopped from ominous, instrumental hip-hop to confessional singer-songwriter to psychedelic rock and pop explorer, blending cratedigger-level samples with a bevy of keyboards and other original instrumentation. For his latest album, the producer has teamed up with Philly-via-Atlanta rapper STS for the May 5th release of STS x RJD2.
"STS is one of my favorite rappers to make waves in the last three to four years," the producer tells Rolling Stone. "We got connected through a mutual friend and hit the ground running on making music together here in Philly. He has a way with words, and his own fully developed style; we wound up making some soulful, honest hip-hop music that we are both quite proud of, and can't wait for people to hear."
Released through the producer's RJ's Electrical Connections label, the album shuffles between moody, soulful beats and triumphant, horn-anchored tracks.
The jubilant first single, "Hold On, Here It Go," recorded with classical collective Bohemian Dub Orchestra, provides an euphoric counterpoint to STS's politically-minded lyrics. "Spit like brother Malcolm / 'Ballot or the Bullet' speech / Tough as Martin Luther King to have a dream / And address it from the Lincoln Memorial / The revolution won’t be televised because the ratings would be horrible."
"Rarely do I cut a track and get the goose bumps, slam dunk type feeling right away, but it happened on this one," the producer tells Rolling Stone. "To give it some momentum, the chord changes keep shifting up octaves every 8/16 bars or so. Definitely one of my proudest moments ever making rap music."
STS is the latest in a long line of RJD2 collaborators. In 2013, the producer released his last album, More Is Than Isn't, with former Icebird collaborator Aaron Livingston after years of working with underground mainstays like Vast Aire, J-Live and Aceyalone. On the latter’s 2006 album Magnificent City, which found RJ behind the boards for every track, the producer created his most well-known song when the instrumental for "A Beautiful Mine" was chosen as the theme song for Mad Men.
STS has appeared on The Roots‘ How I Got Over and songs from Ciara, Jill Scott and Jazzy Jeff, among others.
STS x RJD2 is now available for pre-order.