by: Rahul Reddy
I wish I was on the ball with reviewing this album before his tragic passing, but I never got around to it. Jay Dee, born James Yancey, is highly held by many Hip-Hop fans as one of the best producers ever. He got the J Dilla moniker after confusions with the not-as-dope ATL producer Jermaine Dupri. J dilla has been behind the last two Tribe Called Quest albums, early De La Soul, Common, and was the producer for Slum Village; Dilla has spent years providing us Hip-Hop heads with classic material. He passed on February 10th due to complications of Lupus, but left us with a classic disc with his Donuts LP.
This album defines ground breaking and is unique music in a Hip-Hop genre where predictability is the norm. Many fans might find this album even too odd for their tastes, even for an instrumental album. Donuts is an eclectic mix of samples, where Dilla really flexes his production talent by creating a record that shifts what you think a Hip-Hop album might be. The majority of the tracks on the album are real short, the only song over 3 minutes is "Workinonit." Here Dilla shows he is putting his work in with this hectic, yet dope joint. Dilla traverses through samples like it was his day job, getting the most out of them like jacking a quick Beastie Boy's vocal sample for the up-lifting, funky "The New."
Dilla made this record while in the Hospital with the condition which ended up taking his life, and the eerie, yet triumphant vibe of this album reflects that. "Time: The Donut of the Heart" is a somber, but eloquent arranging of samples including an addictive melody. "The Diff'rence" has an amazing manipulation of a horn-laced sample by Jay Dilla. I could go track for track and discuss the album, but I think the way Dilla made the album was to be a total package.
Donuts is meant to be listened to in its entirety from start to finish. What might be even more impressive than Dilla's alteration of samples, is his ability to create seamless transitions from track to track. Donuts is different than what most Hip-Hop heads are used to, and I think Dilla succeeded in creating an amazing and unique album. "People" for me is the gem of the album, where Dilla takes a sped-up loop slows it down to perfection, and speeds it back up with precision and it left me speechless. It maybe an odd metaphor to make, but Dilla conducted his samples like an orchestra to make a Hip-Hop album that we soon won't forget.
I though the name Donuts had some deep metaphor, like how donuts look like vinyl, or some sort of metaphor for continuation; in reality, Jay Dee just liked doughnuts. And any fan of music will like his Donuts too. With Dilla's passing we will be missing out on countless classic tracks, but we are left with a musical library of a legend, where Donuts might just be his masterpiece.
RIP J Dilla