By Neil Drumming
June 18, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

My wife despises Fred Durst, as do I. That’s as much as she (a rock fan) and I (a hip-hop head) have been able to agree upon regarding a successful merging of the two genres: Limp Bizkit ain’t it. However, new hope for marital bliss springs from the efforts of experimental hip-hop producers like Blockhead, Nobody, and, most recently, RJD2 (ne Ramble Krohn). Having explored every possible permutation of sampled soul, R&B, and jazz synched to crackling percussion, these constant crate diggers are now plundering rockier pastures.

Signifying this shift, RJD2’s sophomore LP opens heavy: from the title track’s fuzzy guitar stabs and arena-ready keys to the evererupting drum fills of ”Exotic Talk” conjuring images of wildhaired stickmen flailing away at Zildjians. But RJ, realizing there’s more to ”rock” than ”rawk!!!” lets his softer-side show to touching effect, going all shoe gazer on ”Making Days Longer” and bluesy on ”Someone’s Second Kiss.” Even when he ramps up again on the positively Journey-esque ”Through the Walls,” RJD2’s awkward, unaffected vocals lend the hype some heart.

Although recorded live, post-trip-hop pioneer DJ Shadow’s ”In Tune” is drearier. Shadow (a.k.a. Josh Davis) predated RJD2’s tangents with projects like 1996’s ”Endtroducing…” and 1998’s ”Psyence Fiction”. But here, in a retrospective that varies imperceptibly in energy from track to track, Shadow’s steady breakbeats and droning bass lines lull. And, as we all know, every mix — or marriage, for that matter — needs variety. ”Since”: A- ”In Tune” B-