RJD2's The Third Hand is the kind of alternative hip-hop record that raises the question: When does a particular artist stop being alternative anything and start to step outside the confines of a single genre? What's even more impressive is that RJD2 did it all himself — the producing, the singing (not his strong suit), the sampling, the analog synth, the piano. Is it hip-hop? There's certainly nothing especially hip-hop about the Merchant Ivory-flavored incidental music that opens the album. And it's followed by a taste of psychedelic popcraft that could pass for something Money Mark might have done on an artier day. There's a break in "Have Mercy" that sounds like a really stoned version of Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" as performed by Talking Heads, and "Someday" is unadorned Beatlesesque balladry, while other tracks veer closer to the gospel-flavored school of soul you'd get with Cee-Lo. Hip-hop's still on RJD2's speed dial. He just doesn't call as often. And even a stone-cold purist would feel like an asshole denying the hip-hop nature of the more inspired beats here.


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