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Dilla Donuts Month: "Don’t Cry"

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Between the strange, snare-heavy frenzy of “The Twister,” the somber elegance of “One Eleven,” the boastful banger “Two Can Win” and the leisurely warmth of “Don’t Cry,” the middle of Donuts is tremendously diverse (and, more importantly, great); it’s straight-up bizarre, poignant, breezily funky and soothing all at once. Among the four songs mentioned, “Don’t Cry” is my favorite, with a slow, sparkling beat and lush Escorts sample. By all accounts, Dilla seems to have been a happy person—just look at Donuts’ cover, where, presumably content, he offers a slight smile, Tigers cap hanging over his eyes—and this is his reminder to be one yourself, even on a frigid February day when the snow-shoveling never ends and you’re mourning the loss of one of your favorite rap producers. At any rate, “Don’t Cry” is every bit as wonderful as “U-Love” (the horn-laden slow jam that appears later) and all of the other Dilla-produced odes to gladness and affection.

-Matt R.

Matt writes about hip-hop on This marks his debut as a blog contributor.


“Don’t Cry” is the inverse of most beats and the majority of Donuts because for long stretches of the song, it’s just a vaguely fucked-with, mostly unadulterated soul-loop and then, for shorter, more chorus-like patches, it folds into itself and becomes a breakdown of vocal clips and grunts and quarter-second samples. Most beats are the opposite, with all the manipulation going on in the longer, “verse” sections and the chorus/hook being the point where the LP slicing and dicing lets-up into a cathartic, untouched loop.

But, most of Donuts doesn’t do that either, the majority of the songs dive deep into obsessive sample tweaking and never come up for the air of a unvarnished soul loop, just whirling around, forever delayed and incomplete as pieces of a vocal or a snare pop-in, then vanish. Only on the most explicitly emotional tracks from early in the album (“Stop!”, “People”, “The Diff’rence”) does Dilla follow a typical beat formula.

But starting with “Don’t Cry” the heavy tracks reject typical beat formula for this inverse-beat pattern, where the really explicit emotion of the song’s repeated a bunch and it only briefly gets all choppy and staggered.

There’s even a sense that the closer to the end–or er, beginning–of the album you get, the less touched the soul samples become, moving closer and closer to just flat-out loops with minimal interjection. The tracks get more emotionally direct as they get more musically direct. Makes sense. Even then though, Dilla mixes it up a few times, tossing in “Geek Down” or “Da Factory”, which work on a pacing level and also downplay the emotional overt-ness of the surrounding tracks and keep the overall album down-to-earth.

The same way rap albums have a few overtly serious tracks but for the most part, mix the visceral with the intellectual within a song or even verse, or end with that stand-out tone changing “sorry I sold crack”-type song or super-didactic political song to flip the rest of the album, Donuts is weird-fun that finds its way back to the super-serious eventually. A dealer isn’t burdened with regret most of the time, a rapper’s not getting all Op-Ed piece in the Times 24-7, and Dilla’s not contemplating his mortality all day every day.

And then you get “Don’t Cry”, a clear reference to Dilla’s illness. He’s telling friends, family, fans not to cry, probably in part because he doesn’t feel like there’s anything to cry about–the album’s proof of his comfort with death–and also just because, as The Escorts sample emotes, it really sucks to see someone cry, especially when they’re crying for you.

Written by Brandon

February 18th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Dilla, Donuts

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