The chap in my local record shop made a big deal about this record, almost forced me to buy it; Thank God.
This is a seriously good example of what Hip-Hop can, and in many cases should, be. Mixing soul, jazz, traditional beats, rhymes, and a few more 'rocky' vocals, RJD2 has managed to marry brass bands with old school MC'ing, lounge style soundscapes with crashing beats and satisfying bass lines.
What I don't understand is why this hasn't been more successful. It sold out very quickly in said record shop but no one else I know has even heard of it.
I really think this is different from the majority of what is listened to. As the work of a producer you think, perhaps, it should have less acclaim than, say, The Roots. However, to look at DJ Shadow and not this, is a travesty. This is more tuneful, there is more variety, and its more accessible than any of Mr Shadow's offerings (which, incidentally, I enjoy immensely).
Obviously, it would be difficult to say its better but is it equal? Without doubt: this is a new direction for Hip-Hop production and its here to stay. I just hope RJD2 gets the plaudits he deserves.