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Dilla Donuts Month: "Walkinonit"

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-Phaseone “Walkinonit” Remix

I remember when Donuts came out, I had been meaning to check for it but on February 10th, when I read of his passing on the internet, I went out to cop it that day. I enjoyed it on first listen but was a little caught off guard. I was expecting a bunch of instrumentals to rock to out of boredom without having to keep up with emcees. I figured if it sounded like an instrumental Slum Village record, or even a bunch of tracks half as good as “It’s Your World” from Common’s Be, it would be worth the purchase (I also, honestly, was hoping for some open drums to sample). I put the record away for quite some time.

Sometimes I think that anyone who says they “got” Donuts upon first listen, never really “got” it at all and probably still doesn’t. I literally had to listen dozens of time to realize the true beauty and heartfelt soul of the record. At first it sounded messy, disheveled, repetitive.

I still don’t completely understand what it is about Donuts, but one day I realized I understood it as if I had all along. J Dilla has absolutely immortalized and perfected the “instrumental”, or MC-free, hip hop album. The best thing about it is the complete absence of any took-it-as-far-as-it-could-go vibe.

February of 2008, I tried to compile an assembly of producers to remix every song from Donuts on one project, to commemorate the two-year anniversary of his death, to no avail. The result is my remix of “Walkinonit”, easily one of my top-five favorites from Donuts (among, probably, “U-Love”, “Time: The Donut of the Heart”, “Gobstopper”, and “The Twister”. Dilla rolls in his grave anytime anyone listens to my remix, as I have completely gone against everything he sought to establish with “Walkinonit” and Donuts as a whole.

Having been consumed with anger every time I listened to “Walkinonit” for the mere ten seconds (like, what the fuck?!) of a beautiful hook he looped (“ba-a-by walk on by-y-y”), I finally got fed up and chopped up “Walk On By” by The Undisputed Truth myself so I could groove to the hook for a little longer. I added drums and a few other elements to the mix and called it a night. The result is an anti-minimalist, anti-Donut, anti-”Walkinonit” version of “Walkinonit”.


Phaseone is from St. Louis and makes instrumental electronic and hip-hop. He can be stalked at MySpace and Twitter. You can download his album Mad Weight for free here.


When you read ?uestlove’s Dilla ruminations like this or this (Sidenote: ?uest should write a book on Dilla), a recurring discussion is how Dilla had, stashed in the vaults or his hard-drive or wherever, a ton of remakes or remixes or refixes of shit Pete Rock or other legends had done. But out of respect and shit, he never let them see the light of day.

The same way Donuts became a vehicle where he no longer had to worry about “Can someone rap on this?” or “is this hip-hop?” or even like, those unspoken Producer rules for beatmaking, I think it was a way to do these crazier variations on oft-sampled shit and get away with it. He’s not making “beats” in the conventional sense, so he’s not competing with other producers. Dilla found a way to share these refixes of oft-sampled shit like “Walk On By” here on “Walkinonit” (although it’s The Undisputed Truth version, not Isaac’s but still) or Mountain or on the track before “Walkinonit”, “Dilla Says Go”, flip the “Hate It Or Love It” sample source without it being some kind of douchey corrective or producer battle.

“Walkinonit” though, is also one of the most direct tracks in terms of emotionality. It’s one of those where you’re not thinking at all about how it was made, you’re just feeling that flutter of strings and repeated, “Broken and blue…walking down the street…broken and blue”. It describes how Dilla probably felt in the hospital or in a wheelchair on-stage or in the airport and everywhere else. Like damaged goods or something. Not himself. But not an “Oh, poor me” type thing, just, feeling not fully together physically because well…he wasn’t.

When you’re visibly sick, everyone, from lovers and friends to total strangers, treat you very differently. Especially strangers as they both notice the wheelchair-bound and can’t help but think “Wonder what happened to him…” and try very hard to not look or stare and plain old ignore it. “Walkinonit” is a semi-sequel to “Don’t Cry” as it’s similarly inward and saying “leave me alone, don’t worry about me”, in part because he understands the pain and suffering better than anybody else but also because he just doesn’t want to be stared-at or felt sorry for and feel like his very presence affects everything.

The two lines, “walking down the street” and “broken and blue”, come from very different parts of the song and so, this wasn’t “Oh those lines from this song express how I’m feeling”, this is almost songwriting here–even if it’s only two lines–or at least, cut-up or magnetic poetry style expression.

Written by Brandon

February 25th, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Dilla, Donuts Month

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