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Any DJ worth his wax knows there’s more to hip-hop than beats, bravado and samples extracted from R&B vinyl. On “Since We Last Spoke,” the Def Jux label’s star spinner, RJD2, strays further from the medium’s usual rap/soul axis and delves into arena rock, circa 1984 (Van Halen reference intended). Some critics argue that these exercises in instrumental hip-hop spread his talent too thinly; others might say he’s icing the wrong cake. But when seen as an accomplishment in turntablism, RJD2’s latest full-length is an impressive and refreshingly unpredictable listen.

Switching from sticky Stratocaster licks (“Exotic Talk”) to snappy Herb Albert horn fills (“1976”), the Ohio native lets the genres mingle without canceling each other out. Aside from the gross misstep of “Through the Walls” (REO Speedwagon anyone?), it works, and the rubbery synth lines woven throughout give the album bounce and cohesion in all the right places. Bridging the gap between b-boys and big hair proves enjoyable, so I expect to hear more of RJD2’s indulgences put to wax. And why not? He iced the cake, so let him eat it, too.

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