Photo credit Danielle Kline 

RJD2 is one of Columbus, Ohio’s most beloved local creatives.

RJD2’s newest album, Visions Out Of The Limelight is break heavy, which should please people who loved Dead Ringer’s “Let The Good Times Roll.” I’ve known RJD2 for years. My usual RJD2 interview would mention RJD2’s graffiti friends – me, Wands, and Cram. Or I would ask him if someone who reads Howard Zinn would critique advertising circa Mad Men era? I figured I would avoid my usual questions.

Instead, we find where out where the party’s at.

RJD2’s Visions Out of the Limelight’s release party is Saturday June 22,  2024. Tickets 25 dollars.

We discuss a couple of my favorite RJD2 rap songs. We deconstruct a review I didn’t write with a written podcast.

I quote Playboy’s description of RJD2 – “Hipster Hop.”

I forgot about soliciting RJD2’s opinion about Campus Target.

Wes Flexner: Did you know there is a street called Ramblewood near Bethel Road?

RJD2: Ramblewood. I don’t think so.

If you’re in that area or any area and you’re familiar with 315. RJD2’s Visions Out of the Lime Limelight Release Party is at Land Grant in Franklinton Columbus, Ohio onSaturday June 22, 2024.


I saw Kweli deejay at Land Grant with J-Rawls. People were rocking with Kweli like Kweli was Fresh Kid Ice of 2 Live Crew.

I saw Rawls with Rich Medina . I love the set-up. The ambiance, vibe and sound. I said, this looks like a good place for a release party.

The outdoor acoustics next to the water. I didn’t see Rich Medina but I love Rich Medina. It’s like going on vacation or something.

It’s definitely got a summer-y vibe to it.

Which version of your show is this release event?

I have a band. Local band. The guys who I normally do East Coast Shows with. Drummer and bassist with me. It’ll be a hybrid thing. Most of the shows I’ve done have been solo. I’ve gotten really comfortable with that.

This is gonna be a hybrid of both of those things. We will see how this goes with the footprint on the stage at Land Grant.

I think we can cram ourselves all onto the stage. Even if it’s tight it’s fun. I don’t mind being on a small stage. It kinda has a house party-ish Bernies Freakin’ Pizza Vibe. I find that more in my comfort zone sometimes rather than a humongous stage and it’s just you.

Turntables and musicians.

Turntables, MPC and some musicians.

All your technical deejay, blends, and scratches. A live band enhancing thing and sequencing. You’re playing with your friends. Tons of people there. The body of water there. It’s real comfortable. I love it over there.

Yeah. That’s awesome.

I’m sorry for taking it this far back. You worked with Mos Def.

I did a remix for him. It was in the Diverse-era. So me and uh…there is guy named Diverse from Chicago. I did a bunch of production on his album, 1 AM. They did a remix. It’s been awhile.

I can’t remember if I did the original of the song or not. I wanna say I also did the remix. It was in that era.

Mos Def was part of his project. I did the beat. It was Diverse and Mos Def.

Was that off the Urban Renewal?

No, it was on his album. I wanna say it was from his album, 1 Am.

The verse...

Wylin Out was the name of the song. I think it was on his 1 Am album. It might have been on Urban Renewal. I did several production related things.

Either some of the songs are remixes or producing artist with that label Chocolate Industries…Back in the Day.

My memory’s a little fuzzy,

It’s all good.

I forget exactly which record that came out on.

I had the 12inch. You had Dead Ringer playing. Then there’s a Mos Def joint. I’m sorry for bringing it up. Well, I’m not apologizing. A record with Doom of the Viktor Vaughn Record

Yeah. Yeah. Saliva.

Doom died. I played Special Herbs. I Put on Saliva. Those Horns.

Horns. I did the beat for that. For people who might not know, he did this record under this moniker Viktor Vaughn. He was always doing a lot of projects. Sometimes under different names and stuff, so…

Did you record with Doom?

Uh no. To my knowledge he did that whole record through the mail. We definitely did it through the mail.

The new album, Vision Out of the Limelight. The reason I’m thinking about Doom and Mos Def, the new album, Vision Out of the Limelight is like Dead Ringer or 1976. Except Visions Out of the Limelight is super break heavy. Visions Out of the Limelight doesn’t have rappers.

Why aren’t there rappers?

Y’know, it’s one of those things where uh, Hip Hop has kinda been the gravitational center for everything that I’ve done creatively in the last 25-6, whatever it is, years. Um, and so what I have found is because that’s usually the center of the bullseye.

I’m not always gonna be hitting that. Everything doesn’t need to be a rap record. Everything does gravitational pull back towards Hip Hop.  Most recent record that I have done that was released was the STS album. That last one we did together. The Sweet Auburn album and because that was an entire rap record.

The best way I can describe it. That orbit around Hip Hop, I had historically felt comfortable pushing outwards in that gravitational pull. It’s off those things. It didn’t feel I needed to. My focal point was not necessarily straight over the plate rap music.

You look at Dead Ringer and that was kinda like a conscious attempt to fuse those two parts of my life. My creative life. Making Rap records. And then also making things that were instrumental and ambitious, didn’t necessarily have a rapper on it, y’know. At that time, and times since then I’ve wanted to really firmly meld those two things.

I guess to use another example: the Aceyalone record. I wanna say I’m not sure but I wanna say that was the most previous record I’d done to right before the Third Hand, which was a solo album I did that didn’t have any rappers on it. Because I just did a full length rap album, I don’t feel compelled I necessarily have to have rappers on this album.

I don’t think I’m doing this

I understand. You’ve made rap records before. You can make rap records again. You don’t need a rapper on every record.

I’m coming right off a rap record. I have the luxury of sorta looking at things in an ambitious manner relative to that kinda of gravitational pull. That gravitational pull kicks in for me kind of instinctively not because it’s a thing I’m thinking about necessarily  but I miss it. I haven’t made rap music in a couple, whatever. The last 15-20 songs I’ve made weren’t with a rapper. I start missing it. Then I wanna do it.

It seems like it keeps different creative ideas around. You probably get into the redundancy of anything. I’m not saying you have. It you take a break from rappers and then you go back. It could be fun.

Yeah, and you have new things to kinda bring to the table and think about. Very much does kinda. The two inform each other in a way that I find interesting and inspiring.

I think if I was just making rap music constantly, if I was making five rap albums in a row:

Number 1, I think that would be a little bit suffocating for me creatively but I also think it would be a thing where I don’t know if I could keep saying interesting things as a producer. Making interesting music as a producer.

There are only so many reiterations of something you can do if you’re doing it over and over and over and over. At some point you need to get outside of your own headspace and get new influences and inspirations.

Hip Hop emceeing is an important part of Hip Hop. Hip Hop started with the breaks.

This is why it all kinda still works. It falls within the mission statement for me creatively. All of it does.

Yeah. I feel you. The new album – I like Visions Out of the Limelight

Thanks man.

I was bumping it. It’s one of those things. Sometimes you just listen to music. Sometimes you listen to stuff that’s cool. I see what this guy’s doing. I like this. Breaks, and instrumental Hip Hop. Is it cerebral? Or is the dancing more important?

In a perfect world it’s a fusion of the two. Y’know, I think about great. For me, my most favorite dance songs that I would consider danceable are songs that I also find stimulating musically. I will use an obvious example: Apache by the Incredible Bongo Band. That recording. They didn’t write that song. It was a cover. And that song. That song. The composition alone. If you just think about what’s happening harmonically. Melodically. It’s actually a really interesting song. It’s got this legendary break beat in the middle of it. Even without that. The rest of the song.

It had the rest of the component that would make sense for great dance music.

It’s up tempo. The low-end is bumping. It’s rhythmic. It’s funky. You can groove to it.

There is a lot of music that has those components. The harmonics are not that interesting. As interesting as that. It is one of the reasons I got really into boogie, and selectively disco music. At its apex, it’s drawing on all the harmonic things that made R&B of that era. Soul and Funk of that era interesting. It still reduces down to great chord changes. Great melodies. You could play it on a piano. Carole King style. And still have the best songs if that genre. They sound like great songs. Completely removed from a groove. You take that. You can integrate a groove into it.

Now that’s to me – have your cake and eat it too, if you will.

Sometimes I like to go with the most basic definition of something. When you say harmony. What’s your definition of harmony?

Technically. I’m not looking at a dictionary right now. I would assume the definition of harmony are two notes that aren’t the same note that are working in tandem.

So when I say, what I am saying there – to distinguish between melody and harmony, I ma thinking about the Chord Change. I think of that as the harmonic. The composition of it.

This does tie into this most recent album in a way. I realized that I’m always gravitated towards an interesting chord change. There is a lot of music that has great chord changes that doesn’t necessarily have a strong melody. A singable melody.

This is one of the things I tried to bring to this album. To not just make. IF I had a groove and I felt good about the chord change for the riff or whatever you wanna call it. The musical bed that’s not drums. What’s happening there. Non Rhythmically. Harmonically…

I was trying to take this song beyond just a great chord change.

If you break apart something – ”Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” The beginning of that song, the chord change is how it starts. You got that harmonic melody to it.

That would be the melody. Distinguish between those two parts. That’s how I’m using those terms.

The reason I ask questions like that: You shouldn’t ever overanalyze music. You should enjoy. Sometimes you’re in the moment. Harmony and melody are gonna be produced without overthinking it because of woodshedding and developing of skillsets.

But it’s worth defining the words we’re gonna use. If we’re gonna talk about something it’s worth defining those words.

That’s the thing. If I’m sitting at home. I’m not singing about harmony or melody. If it think about it. It might help my appreciation of composition.

This might be a tangent I edit out. I know instrumental Hip Hop is kinda different.

Hip Hop is either the absence of melody. Rakim said, “Check Out My Melody.” One of the defining characteristics of Hip hop. Melody doesn’t exist or…

Run DMC. “Sucker Mc’s.” Drums and Rapping. No melody.

The absence of melody. You add a melody like Rakim’s “Check Out My Melody.”I don’t know if this a real question or not. Harmony is two different sounds or notes. I’m thinking about Hip Hop’s use of harmony. This is gonna sound stupid, do you need two melodies to make a harmony?

Technically yeah. If you had just one melodic passage, one voice, one human standing in the room with no instruments, and they sing “American the Beautiful.” That’s a melody.

You add a second human. They harmonize. They don’t sing the same notes to America the Beautiful. That is harmony.

I knew that. I don’t know why I wanted that in there. Now, I have to study the use of harmony in Hip Hop.

Jamie Lidell – is he singing melodies or harmonies on Visions Out of the Limelight?

Well, he was singing melodies in places there is a single passage of his voice. At points where he’s, I wouldn’t call them the leads. Any place where you hear more than one of his voice stacked. That would be harmony.

In that song, “Through It All.”  Most of his passages are just single takes. You are only hearing one of his voice. That would be a melody.  There are some places where he does background stuff. The way the song is laid out is a, it’s a quasi-psychedelic arrangement. In my eyes.

There are places where he’s sorta delving in and out of the background vocals and the forefront, the lead vocals. In some of those background parts, there are harmonies he did.

I understand. If the vocals are layered over each other that is gonna create a harmony. I’m sure everyone knew that, I was over explaining something. Sometimes you look at psychedelic, sometimes I wonder – what makes that psychedelic sound?

I didn’t realize it’s harmony.

What I’m referencing more there is, the song is laid out in an unconventional manner in terms of the how he is singing. If someone were to listen to his vocal arrangement on that song and then listen to, I don’t know, “Party in the USA” or something like that, they would probably see a difference. There’s an inconsistency. There is an unpredictability in the way Jamie is singing in that song. That’s what I’m referring to – into a sort of psychedelic influence there.

Maybe, I should use the term unconventional, which is probably a little more accurate.

For your song, your single: RJD2’s “Through it All” with Jamie Lidell. It’s not jarring.  I guess the point of this conversation, the unconventional harmonies keep it interesting.

That’s how I feel. Different people are gonna feel differently about it. Some people find unpredictability in music unsettling. Some people find it exciting and engaging.

It’s not disruptive. Disruptive can be good in some occurrences. You listen to RJD2’s “Through It All.”  RJD2’s “Through it All” with Jamie Lidell. It’s interesting sounding but it’s not jarring.

That’s what I’d hope.

You have this, I don’t wanna say, human beatbox thing. You have water sounds.

The mouth blip thing.

Yeah, vocals. I was wondering anytime I hear something like that, I think about Jeru’s “Come Clean.”

Oh, the water drop thing, yeah.

I was wondering while you were explaining your vision for the song if you mentioned Jeru’s “Come Clean.”

It’s definitely a reference point. Come Clean is one of the things when you first hear it, you’re not exactly sure what you’re hearing.

I remember people calling it the water drop beat or the water drop song. Shortly after the Jeru song came out, in all, actually what that is, is a marimba with with a really tight delay. There is a pretty unconventional melody. So it doesn’t have the feel of a melodic instrument. But it is.

What you’re hearing is probably a soft mallet striking a wooden tone bar in a Marimba. Instead of it just going ding, there is a delay on it that goes durrring.

This is more information than anyone wanted to know. That’s what was making that. Because of that little delay, you hear it. It almost sounds like what you’re hearing is water drops.

I wouldn’t say that was inspired by that beat per say, I’ve always loved things that when your hear them in a song . It stops you and you think, what is that? What am I hearing?

It’s different.

A touch point or reference point. The other bigger one for me was probably the mouth noises in.

Timbaland would sometimes put in his beats in his heyday if you will. I always thought those were really cool and well done.

I was doing the water-drop thing with my mouth. You flick your cheek and you kinda make a fast, it’s little hard to describe, like a contracting “O” shape with your mouth. You flick the inside of your cheek. You can make that sound.

And I was, y’know, goofing off one day doing that. And I was like, what if I could, you can only do it so fast. You can do it on a rhythm what’s maybe a quarter note. Your standard tempo.

I couldn’t do it as a 16th note.

Then I was like, what if I just either over dubs or using the mic, dumped these into the mic  Then made them exactly rhythmic precise. But too fast for a human to actually do it. That was kind of the appeal in my head

I’ve always been intrigued by something that sounds inhuman or one of those things that sucked me into Hip Hop. You listen to a beat. You listen to a Public Enemy beat. I think instinctively people hear it. They think, I’m not listening to a drummer play a drum kit. This doesn’t even sound like a musician playing an instrument. This doesn’t sound like any musician I’ve heard playing an instrument. What am I hearing?

Uh huh.

That intrigue has always sucked me in. That was probably the first thing that sucked me into the instrumentation side of Hip Hop.

It creates something new and interesting as long as it sounds good.

Yeah, exactly.

When you first hear the Jamie Lidell song you think about the water, and then the vocals, and harmonies. We talk about these things because music is interesting.

Baselines are integral in RJD2’s new album, Visions out of the Limelight.

Do you prefer stand-up bass or electric bass?

I was hoping to buy –  I don’t have an upright bass. It was one of those things I was hoping to buy during the making of this album. They’re not that easy to find.

I was doing some haggling with people on Facebook Marketplace. Looking for an upright. I never got one. There isn’t an upright. I do have a fretless bass. It’s not the tone of an upright. It does give you the fretless, maybe 50 percent of the sound people associate with an upright bass. The fact it’s not fretting. So when you slide a note. It’s like what your voice does. Technically you would consider it a portamento. Not glissando. It’s like a non-stepped transition between the notes. It’s perfectly smooth. Makes bass sound that what you’re hearing with the pitch. It’s not gonna sound like an upright but you can get that part of it through the fretless I used on some of the songs.

It brings in the fundamental of the bass, At first, I was gonna say, I prefer upright bass.

Then I was thinking, Funkadelic used an electric bass didn’t they?

Oh yeah. I’m not aware of them using it, upright is mostly associated with jazz music. Funkadelic would all be electric. Fretted bass to my knowledge. There are not a lot of people who played electric fretless bass in music people are familiar with. Jaco Pastorius is the iconic one if people are familiar.

People have the internet. They can look that stuff up.

Do you like Funkadelic or Parliament better?

Funkadelic to me always spoke to me. I don’t think I could choose one of the other.

Maggot Brain is defiantly more of a desert island album, to me, rather than any of the Parliament Records. For those who aren’t aware, in broad strokes, these are the same band

Under Funkadelic would make ambitious, edgy very rock inspired music  That was grittier, and dirtier.

Parliament was the iteration of the exact same band. Mostly the same band. But in a hyper clean, danceable disco inspired often times dance music inspired interaction.

Funkadelic is rockier and cerebral, but it’s still energy. Parliament was kinda the party band.

Very clean. Synth oriented. In don’t wanna live without Flashlight and all the classic Parliament tunes. It’s tough to call.

The only reason I asked that is you rocked the Barbara Cheeseborough Maggot Brain Cover for your album cover?

Yeah. Yeah.

Do you like Coke or Fanta?

Playboy Club in New York City?


I was looking at that. That’s a couple years ago. I went online. I found some back issues where they mentioned you.

Are you serious?

I don’t know if you’ve seen this. In one of the issues. Playboy refers to RJD2 as Hipster-Hop.


When Playboy brought you out to the Playboy Club did they say this?

That is hilarious. Now, I gotta see this. I had no idea.

The issue you’re in. Playboy describes RJD2 as Hipster Hop.

I know this is kinda redundant. Donald Trump’s on the cover of the issue you are in.

Laughs. You gotta be kidding me.

I was browsing Playboy. I’m reading a Donald Trump interview. Donald Trump telling people to vote for John Kerry. Which is interesting.

2024 keeps getting weirder. I had no idea.

That was one of those things. The offer came in. To my knowledge that club is defunct. It only lasted for nine months. It was a pretty weird scenario. I got booked. I had my band. I had STS with me. The room was really nice. It was a really super nice room. Very well done. Classy but it did look like you would imagine a club which was owned by the magazine Playboy would look like.

I remember that show. We had this insanely late set time. I don’t think we started until 12:30 or 1 am. Which for me is late. It was kinda like they were hoping.

I think they had two parts of the club. This other part was more like a cocktail club type thing. They thought people were gonna get out of there and then come to the music venue. I don’t think it really worked out. It was all together. Everyone was super nice. Very, very kind. But it wasn’t your standard club experience.

As far as your show, Land Grant of any show, is your biggest record the Horror,  Let the Good Times Roll or Mad Men?

Ironically enough, there’s a lot of people who don’t know or aren’t aware I did the Mad Men theme, it was song from an album I made. There are times I incorporated into a set, and people are like, what are you doing? Why? They aren’t aware I had anything to do with Mad Men.

It seems out of place.

Ghostwriter seems far and away the most recognizable song that I’ve done.

Is that because that’s in a movie or because Dead Ringer?

I think it’s one of those things. The song seems to have taken on a life of its own, y’know. That’s the best I can tell. We never understood why that song became popular basically, ‘cause it didn’t seem like the most marketable. We didn’t even release it as a single.

Frankly we didn’t think there was that much there, for being single-worthy. To answer your question, more so than Let the Good Times Roll. Ghostwriter is the song people recognize the most.

Last question:

Who is RJD2’s favorite Star Wars Character? In the other Playboy issue you are in, the cover is Star Wars, Al-Qaeda and sexy aliens. RJD2’s 1976 in a Playboy playlist with Cocktails. Who is your favorite Star Wars Character?

Favorite Star Wars character. It would probably be Bubba Fet.

The Bounty Hunter

I always thought he was cool. He was mysterious. Not knowing what he looked like. The helmet was cool. As a kid I found that more intriguing than character profile of anyone else.

He knew Billy Dee Williams.

They’re all cool. Billy Dee Williams is cool. Luke Skywalker was cool. Han Solo. If I had to pick a person and you saw their face, it would probably be Harrison Ford. He had an irreverence and smartassedness appeal to me.