New Music | Friday Roll Out: Thunder Boys, Psych Major, RJD2

Sometimes I don’t know if someone is serious or just messing with me. New York’s Psych Major just dropped his Old Head EP (Below System) that I could probably take or leave. Don’t get me wrong, Psych Major has some dope beats filled with the Boom and the Bap but now that I have time to listen to his flow, he sometimes rushes his wording instead of allowing a natural motion to it. But again the beats are fire, as are his guest spots. I’ll take “Under Any Condition” with its catchy rhythm and deep barreling bass line. This one features Boston emcee Dagha and Brooklyn’s own Sadat X. The quicker-paced “Pre-Giuliani” features Squeegie Oblong and smacks. Five tracks and both Wordsworth and Jamal Gasol are also featured here. I’m in with Old Head, but it’s mostly for the music. I said what I said.


It’s rare to find an artist who can continually defy expectations, and this always seems to be the case with RJD2. For years we’ve always held onto this anticipation for new material that would, or should, deliver a high level of production & creativity. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. The producer/artist’s previous work has always assured us that whatever else comes would most assuredly be filled with a unique level of imaginative musical landscapes. His solo records have been imaginative, and his collaborative efforts (Soul Position, Aceyalone) have shown such promise that there’s only room for ascension.

Through Vision Out Of Limelight (RJ’s Electrical Connections) it seems RJD2’s style continues to remain ubiquitous while at the same time remaining idiosyncratic. The music transcends genres and as soon as someone on “Cold Egg” utters “Give the drummer something,” that’s when the beat, horns and bass come in, in all its wicked glory. The instrumental doesn’t require vocals as guitars & keys fill out any space. If you’re going to begin anything, this is how you need to start things out; with a banger! But this is what RJ does though, his compositions, filled with samples, reworked instrumentation, and occasional lyricist, bring his works to life. “Catch The Exit Door” follows and while the music isn’t striking immediately, the bassline’s melody – wrapped in a sublime atmosphere – does. Once the other instrumentation drops, it fills out the track with horns, guitars, keys, and drums which will lulls one in with its hypnotic motions. Vision Out Of Limelight isn’t a completely instrumental affair, the low-key “Through It All” features Jamie Lidell. While the track is a highly profiled single, the laid-back flirtation takes a different approach here. The song is sweet and alluring but isn’t very commanding. It’s the background track that you might find playing as you have a drink in darkly lit rooms, setting a different tone altogether, and offering you the confidence to speak to someone across the room.

Everything reverts to normalcy with “Es El Nuevo Estilo” where RJ offers up a familiar melody, one you might not be able to place, but have you sucked right in with those bass notes. The song diverges in another direction, so it can sonically captivate like a 70s soul soundtrack right before moving back into that familiar territory. It’s easy to get sucked right into RJ’s rhythm. But it’s “Fools At The Haul,” which features vocalist Jordan Brown whose ethereal delivery is just haunting, takes another direction. The beat is funky, surrounded by that lingering bass melody, lightly sprinkled keys, and distant horns & strings. It’s insanely odd and inviting at the same time. Aside from the reworked horns, things shift on “Wild For The Night,” with its repetitive samples, of what I’m not sure. RJD2 brings us back to the scratching element of Hip-Hop as well.

What’s probably the most fascinating thing about Visions is RJ’s ability to include a wide array of music without allowing it to formulate any clear aspect or just one genre to be pigeonholed within. “Apocalypse March” could be right at home living in the bayou, surrounding itself with classical elements, or even finding solace around Detroit’s Motown of yesteryear. No, I think clearly RJD2 gives no fucks about what anyone believes music should sound like, instead giving us what it can sound like.

Some things may not be so clear with Visions Out Of Limelight but one thing is, RJD2 continues to find ways to challenge himself, discovering new ways to present music in a way that doesn’t move in a direct line but diverges into the unknown. This is larger than life itself.


Sometimes a band’s own press release just might offer up a better descriptive than I could ever. I mean you can’t go wrong with, “A broken city, a decimated relationship, agonizing illness, loss of hope. In the heart of the pandemic in 2020, four Bay Area musicians came together to form  Thunder Boys and record an album amidst a period of intense darkness.” And oh, there’s more with, “What unfolded is Leak in the Dreamworld, an ecstatic journey through the wreckage, a vessel that grew not out of obligation, but unfettered necessity.” Am I right? The band is made up of Aaron Diko (POW, Gravite, Cindy, Body Double), Brandon Chester (Purple Mercy, Banquet), and Justin Flowers (CCR Headcleaner, Long Legged Woman) and Tyson Vogel (Two Gallants) and it might not be what you expect, or it probably is. Either way, you cut it, the band delivers a mostly melodious raucous that’s played with sheer abandon.   

Thunder Boys are noisy but reel things back, delivering an explosive array of sonic diversity. Kicking things off with “Strength Of All,” the band howls and sings across noisy guitars and melodically filled rhythms as the band tetters on the brink of insanity here. It’s a controlled chaos, never relinquishing power or style. At over six and a half minutes, it’s much too brief and could probably linger on for an eternity, and no one would have a problem with that. “Sorry Jars & Shooting Stars” with its spaghetti western-like guitars comes across with a dusty demeanor with nary a lull in dynamics. It’s sometimes explosive and while there are semblances of it, the band creates a garage band aesthetic, without having to stick with the tag. The band moves far beyond that and it shows with the diversity on the release. “

Tiger Tooth In My Growl,” takes a different approach, shedding the band’s noisy skin for something more folk/country-esque as nimble fingers glide across acoustic guitars. They’re beautiful, for lack of a better word. The band keeps the track completely instrumental to capture all its beauty. To an extent, “HLYSIBG” continues along the same lines but this time around, those dual vocals create a semblance of longing through Vogel’s yearning lovelorn words. The rhythm allows voices to drag and create a different sort of ambiance. The band reverts back to its incensed ways on “Conduit To The Deceased” as instruments collide against one another and guitars feedback in the distance. It’s enticing. Inviting even. The band goes wild but again, the control of its rhythm is the most important thing here, as the band knows where it needs to flow, move back, and/or go forward.

Leak In the Dreamworld is a surprise. We never see it coming and by the time it’s over, you need an icepack on your neck, raise your leg and wait for the swelling to go down, and sit back with a brew thinking, “Ok, I wanna do that again!” Thunder Boys doesn’t let up and just like that, you’ll want to get into the fray again with them. I’m not going to pretend I know where to classify the band because it doesn’t fit neatly as just one thing. One thing we can say about the Thunder Boys is the band is filled with master craftsmen.