Things Go Better Wit RJ And Al

Artist: Soul PositionTitle: Things Go Better Wit RJ And AlRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Columbus, Ohio-bred luminaries Blueprint and RJD2 are almost shoe-ins for designation as their city’s best MC and producer, respectively. With Blueprint’s introspective and evocative writing abilities set against RJ’s crate-digging and stellar arrangements, Soul Position seems like a Showbiz & A.G. of the Midwest. After a magical EP and 8 Million Stories LP three years ago, Things Go Better With RJ and Al (Rhymesayers) could have been a brilliant follow-up EP, but instead feels like a cheapened sophomore full-length.

While some critics have found ‘Print’s whining to grate on the nerves, that quality dissipated with this project. Joints like “I’m Free” and “Blame it on the Jager” watch the diary-like writings evolve to peppier party tracks. For insightful thought though, “Hand-Me-Downs” compares the imagery of the musical Black male of the early 1970’s to today. For critics of Diplomat and G-Unit antics, this will serve as an anthem. “Keep It Hot For Daddy” not only mimics an Ant-like style of production, but Blueprint emulates Slug’s domineering but sensual messages to the ladies. However, other experimental ground like “I Need My Minutes” and “Priceless” feel out of context within the Soul Position spectrum – attempting faster flows and materialistic content.

RJD2, in a few places, has securely returned to the Dead Ringer sound that so many have yearned for. “Hand-Me-Downs,” “Keys,” and “No Gimmicks” return to grittier textures based largely off of Rock-influenced Funk of the late 1960’s. The first, combines horn stabs and percussion with a precise Flava Flav vocal scratch, creating a catchy chorus. Things Go Better… has an entirely different soundscape than his recent collaborative album with Aceyalone, revealing RJ’s controlled approach. Still, as with 8 Million Stories, the album is split with penetrating production and dull loops.

Things go better with thought-out timing. Both RJD2 and Blueprint have been involved in other full-length projects within the last three months. As “Hand-Me-Downs” is one of the finest 12” singles 2006 has yet seen, this album fails to follow through. While “Keys” and “I’m Free” stand out, Things Go Better… at points, sounds as shortsighted as it may appear on paper. Just as label-mates Atmosphere were lumped together with Felt in the fall, perhaps Rhymesayers should take a cue from Grand Puba, and “Slow Down.”