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MIX: Dilla Goes Electric.


Dilla Goes Electric Mix.

Because you asked for it. No really, you did! Probably setting a bad precedent here, taking mix requests via Tumblr’s “ask” feature, but last week, someone asked this: “can you make an ‘electric dilla’ mix?” And so, Joseph of No Gang Colors and I spent the weekend putting together this mix of electronic Dilla shit, which is presumably what the person when they asked for “electric dilla.”

We still called it Dilla Goes Electric though because it sounds cool and kinda like “Dylan goes electric,” you know? So here you go, an hour and some change of mostly instrumental electronic Dilla productions, and the SV remix of Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic” which may or may not have been produced by Dilla (but probably was if this interview with Busy P of Ed Banger is considered trustworthy). Enjoy.

  • “B.B.E. (Big Booty Express)”
  • Q-Tip, “Go Hard”
  • Slum Village ft. MC Breed, “Do You”
  • “Shake It Down”
  • “Won’t Do”
  • “Da Factory”
  • “What Up”
  • Daft Punk, “Aerodynamic (Slum Village Remix)
  • “Safety Dance”
  • Royce Da 5′9”, “Let’s Grow”
  • “caDILLAc”
  • Ruff Draft Interlude”
  • Phat Kat, “Big Booties”
  • “Body Movin”
  • “Lightworks”
  • “Let’s Take It Back”
  • “King”
  • Da 1st Installment Beat 3″
  • “E=Mc2″
  • J. Dilla, “Trucks”
  • Busta Rhymes, “Make It Hurt”
  • “In The Night (Owl N Out) – While You Slept (I Crept)”
  • “Milk Money”
  • Slum Village, “Who Are We”
  • Da 1st Installment Beat 8″

Written by Brandon

June 21st, 2011 at 12:27 am

Posted in J-Dilla, mix CD

Pitchfork: Star Slinger – “Elisabeth Fraser”

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So, I reviewed this really incredible refix of Cocteau Twins’ “Heaven Or Las Vegas” by UK’s Star Slinger for Pitchfork’s “The Playlist.” You can read it here.

Written by Brandon

November 23rd, 2010 at 6:42 am

Dilla Donuts Day

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First, picture by the awesome Kelly Connelly. Today is J Dilla’s birthday, which means it is also the day, four years ago that Donuts came out. Below are the links to last year’s Donuts extravaganza. The concern in talking-up an album like Donuts is sucking it of all its wonder and joy; explaining it, solving it. As far as I can tell, that wasn’t the result of “Donuts Month”.

I just got home from a friend of mine’s DJ set and he dropped Pharcyde’s “Runnin” and I use the term “dropped” advisedly–my dude was spinning all vinyl because his hard-drive crashed though he didn’t advertise it–and you had a whole room of people mouthing the lyrics or dancing to it like it was just the next song in an night of songs to dance to…everyone digging into the song on their own personal level, but enjoying it together.

Though certain songs on Donuts may still remind me of the same stuff they did last year, and I may envision say, Dallas Penn’s video when I hear “Anti-American Graffiti”, Dilla’s masterpiece remains as vital and weird and ambiguous and endlessly fascinating as it did when it was released.

1. “Outro”
2. “Workinonit”
3. “Waves”
4. “Light My Fire”
5. “The New”
6. “Stop!”
7. “People”
8. “The Diff’rence”
9. “Mash”
10. “Time: The Donut of the Heart”
11. “Glazed”
12. “Airworks”
13. “Lightworks”
14. “Stepson of the Clapper”
15. “Twister (Huh, What?)
16.“One Eleven”
17. “Two Can Win”
18. “Don’t Cry”
19. “Anti-American Graffiti”
20. “Geek Down”
21. “Thunder”
22. “Gobstopper”
23. “One for Ghost”
24. “Dilla Says Go”
25. “Walkinonit”
26. “The Factory”
27. “U-Love”
28. “Hi.”
29. “Bye.”
30. “Last Donut of the Night”
31. “Intro”

Written by Brandon

February 7th, 2010 at 6:31 am

Posted in Donuts Month, J-Dilla

Dilla Donuts Month: "Donuts (Outro)"

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Before watching the NBA superstar drunkenly stumble out of the club toward his limousine…
A few hours prior to the party stretching to reach its “Laffy Taffy” climax…
Previous to us miraculously bypassing the long New Years Eve line at Geoffrey’s…
And just a few moments in-front of us finding parking in downtown Oakland…

There were sporadic cell phone rings disturbing an otherwise moving listening session inside of Jeromes’ car.
The interruptive cellular chirps were coming from the owner of the bootleg cd that was jolting inside the vehicles interior.
Apparently J-Dilla’s next release was playing in the deck and the constant-caller couldn’t risk us keeping his album.
Rome knew why he was calling so we kept driving and laughing at each recursive chime.

Not too long after the 4am toast to “friends and family” inside of my apartment…
With the calendar swiftly shifting merely one scene…
In what seems like a singular breath from
Labcabincalifornia, The Ummah,Fantastic, Soulquarians…
A Titan of vast creativity moves the arm of his turntable toward the right and stops the final record from playing.

-Thaddeus Clark

Thaddeus Clark/Side Hustle’s debut project is free to download at


Donuts is an album about dying and coming to terms with death and at the same time, a final, looping love letter to the world. But Dilla’s also well-aware that a glorified beat-tape about death and the world’s beauty could get real pretentious real quick so, all the messages and ideas are smuggled through dusty soul samples, telling song names, and the album title itself. “Donuts” as like, little tasty treats, much like the 31 beats on the CD, but Donuts as a down-to-earth, unpretentious symbol for the circle of life. Something that stops being neo-soul gibber-jabber and gets really real when you’re pumping out songs like “Time: The Donuts of the Heart” or “Don’t Cry” on your death-bed.


There is something intensely personal about favorite music. Any person’s “favorites” are “personal,” of course, but rarely do you speak about your favorite food, or your favorite shirt, or your favorite Transformer (the Constructicons, collectively) with the passion often summoned as you profess your endless devotion to cherished music. Your favorite rapper, your favorite song, your favorite album–those are the things that you recall viscerally. And it makes sense. If you love music, you are likely engulfed in it frequently, orchestrating a de facto soundtrack for your life. In that way, music becomes sonic photography, or the oxidation process that preserves the fossils of your experience. Music is a medium that captures time. So, of course you really love your favorite music; your memories and your identity are embedded within it.

And you know what? Thank god for the oxidation. Your favorite music is a museum where you find a showcase about who you are. There are vast wings dedicated to your hobbies, your interests, your values, you successes, your failures. The collections are wonderful and rich because, again, your favorite music envelopes so much of your life, a pervasive crust in which so much has been buried. A nice thing about the museum is that you’re a lifetime member, so you can always visit. And you will need to visit, because inevitably you lose your way, or lose your faith, and need reminding.

You know when you might need to visit? One of those times might be when you meet a girl and it doesn’t work. It will be important to visit then because meeting someone inevitably means “putting yourself out there” and seeing how you do. It means that there are judgments being rendered, vulnerabilities exposed. It means that you’ve invited scrutiny–much of which will be your own–that might lead you astray and cause you to wonder about who you are. You’ll need the reassurance that comes with your favorite music.

You might fall for the wrong girl and end up confused because you don’t like where you are, and you’re not proud of how you got there. Finding your way back is hard–you feel embarrassed, you recognize that you’ve gotten away from what you’d choose for yourself while trying to please someone else. Other times, you fall for what might be the right one, and you end up even more confused. You’ve been drawn in and you’ve opened up. You’ve gone the extra mile, together, because it’s made you both happy. You’ve felt like a better you, and that’s felt right. So when that doesn’t work–when that emotional intimacy isn’t sustaining; when your person appears to somehow be a problem–you feel adrift in doubt.

Thankfully, you have your favorite music. You hit the museum and remember what you care about, what makes you, well, you. So, you visit with The Infamous, Uptown Saturday Night, and Stakes Is High as you stroll through a hall memorializing those 5 AM trips to Footlocker to cop the latest Jordans; as you linger in front of those extended lunches at summer camp when you felt enthroned as though you ruled the world; as you sit down to take in the panoramas depicting late-night impromptu freestyle sessions in your freshman-year dorm. Those are the times when College Dropout becomes a fresco, recalling summertime barbecues with your friends; when Fishscale becomes an antiquity, conjuring those raucous Rae and Ghost shows; whenThe Listening becomes sculpture, depicting subway rides with The New Yorker in your hand and work on your mind. The museum helps you move forward as you find yourself again. Your favorite music doesn’t forget. That’s why it’s your favorite music.

James Yancey is a museum curator; he made so much of my favorite music. There are few collections as precious as that encased in Donuts. Were it merely Dilla’s final completed work, it surely would have invited the retrospective treatment is received subsequent to his passing. That it also is a thorough catalogue of music and emotion only further encourages this historical resonance; it is an album that almost wills a listener to be reflective. But serendipitously, it provided accompaniment for so many parts of my life that arose at so crucial a time. A lot of important living, a lot of important growing, a lot of important being me happened to Donuts. So it’s a record with which I frequently visit. “Waves” and “Light My Fire” are pieces to which I regularly return, and I’ve been to the museum a lot lately.

The steady, hypnotic rhythm of “Waves” confers focus. (And the title of the track is sublime, of course.) Perhaps melancholy at first, the echoing chants take on a calming power. The song doesn’t build, per se, but as it wears on, it subdues, washing away distraction and anxiety. In “Waves,” I find memories of early-morning meetings at which my preparation was self-evident; a moment of confidence required before plunging into an uncomfortable dinner; the reassuring walk home with knowledge that mirth was waiting for me. Why? Really, it’s a simple instrumental that masterfully celebrates the value of the prosaic. “Waves” is driving in my car carefree; it’s the easy rapport of talking to a close friend; it’s the ability to relish everyday pleasures. And for a man slavishly devoted to routine, consistency, and mining the rhythms of everyday life for amusement and absurdity, “Waves” is validation. There is nothing too bizarre about cross-organizing my dress shirts by color, pattern, and fabric; nothing too unusual about laughing at improper punctuation; nothing too dorky about proudly reading so many internets each night before bed. “Waves” occupies a place in the museum that truly restores faith. It helps to make me OK with being me. And as discussed, we all need that sometimes.

No less restorative is “Light My Fire,” both because of where it is and what it is. Immediately following “Waves,” “Light My Fire” is a triumphant piece that transitions from the quotidian to the exciting. It is controlled spontaneity that disrupts the norm without becoming reckless. “Controlled” because the sample is easily recognized; “disrupts” because the tempo and the mood are so suddenly changed; “reckless” because the sounds are not so jarring as to be uncomfortable. Rather, when juxtaposed against “Waves,” and its celebration of the everyday, “Light My Fire” captures a certain exuberance and daring that is no less a part of my life than my happy embrace of the familiar. At the museum, I can’t help but loiter by “Light My Fire” while fondly considering the decisions to stay out even though the bar was closing at 4 AM, to break up a humdrum Wednesday with a carefully executed scavenger hunt, to boisterously engage in a dinnertime discussion of the word “labia” (don’t ask). “Light My Fire,” for its fast-burning energy and subtle rambunctiousness, is very much a track about feeling alive, and a rebuttal to concerns about feeling too comfortable with the usual.

There are, of course, many reasons to visit your museum, many reasons to lose yourself in your favorite music, many times that compel you to recede toward the foundation of your identity. Maybe it happens when you lose a job. Or when you have a great day and want to commemorate it. Maybe you just have to clean your apartment. And so I tread a now well-worn path to and from Donuts because “Waves” and “Light My Fire” are precisely the kind of favorite music that arouses deep passion. Beyond their intrinsic value, each records personal history in a fashion that confers special significance. This, in turn, leaves Jay Dee to enjoy a special place in music, because it is not so easy to curate so many museums.


Joey’s excellent rap blog is Straight Bangin


Donuts isn’t a “beat-tape”. Most of the tracks aren’t really good for rapping—most who’ve tried make that painfully obvious—and each track while rewarding on its own, isn’t intended to float around, untouched by the surrounding tracks but mix, match, and merge with them. Less a mess of distinct, hot sounds, more an album in the “an assembly of songs with a cohesive theme” sense of the word.

What’s cool about Dilla is how he stuck to his producer weirdo introvert reputation and decided to express his album’s themes through sampling, flipping, and chopping, other people’s music. No rappers. No lyrics. The only vocals are clipped, recontextualized, or rendered word-less by Dilla’s MPC. It’s all laid-out pretty clearly if you’re listening and Dilla didn’t grab the mic himself or get Common or Q-Tip to pontificate on heavy questions about life, death, what you leave, how you leave it and all that, he did it with beats and only beats.

Maturation meets wizened comfort with the world that might even be called “enlightenment” which comes when you’ve faced a reality like the one Dilla had to face: Not only are you going to die one day, it’s going to be very soon, too soon, and that’s just how it goes. So much of the time, hip-hop’s about “not giving a fuck”, but making something as soul-bearing and upfront and willfully weird and abstract as Donuts is truly not giving a fuck, you know?


It’s a little weird for me to write anything about Dilla because I’m not actually a fan. Or maybe that’s why it makes perfect sense for me to.

Like most people, my awareness of him and his work came after his 2006 death from Lupus and the immediate canonization campaign that ensued and it’s own reactionary “Dilla is overrated” backlash that followed after one-too-many earnest, hyperbole-laden posts on ?uestlove’s Myspace. The efforts of Dilla fans worked like a charm, because even though I’m not a fan of his production in the strictest definition like I am of Easy Mo Bee, Ski, Prince Paul or RZA, his decade+ of work in hip-hop came more to the forefront and I could now cite specific tracks that I thought were dope that I hadn’t known were his doing beforehand.

Dilla’s sound, to me, was also these odd and clumpy mid-clipped drums and samples and etc. that usually gave his tracks an earthy backpack-rap feel, real modern R&B sounding. His shit usually ended up sounding like the epitome of “Boom-bap”, and the cleanness and clarity of his work just emphasized his drumthump even more.

My favorite Dilla productions are those he did for Ghost, Common, Tribe/Q-Tip and The Pharcyde, but for this project, commemorating another year since his untimely passing from lupus I’ve been asked to take on Donuts, an album I’ve admittedly had on my computer and iPod for the better part of a year but didn’t sit through until asked to do this. Part of the innate curiosity about illegally copping a Dilla album like this is seeing if all the posthumous hype is merited. And since I’ve revisited the album several times since the beginning of January, it obviously is.

The odd thing about instrumental records like this is their purpose. One is utilitarian, something to be processed and looped for cats to rap over or imprint their own take on the music. The other might be for audiophiles or fans to comb the record for ear candy and dissect it for themselves. But rarely are instrumental albums, whether rap or non-rap, worth a shit. Taking the most recent DJ Premier album as an example, for every “Spin Live” you run into, there’s 14 or so utter bricks, dead and lifeless tracks that are rhythmically and sonically staid and don’t merit casual listening. But Donuts is a standout. Usually rap instrumentals grow a presence and attractiveness because of what someone did over it. With a few exceptions, my favorite producer’s tracks wouldn’t hold up on isolated listens had somebody not fucking blacked out on the track like they did and turned a skeletal sketch, regardless of how layered the beat is, into a full-fledged song. Some shit to hum, to rap along to and head nod to, making ugly-ass faces the whole way wishing you owned a car just to blast it. Donuts manages to actually be something interesting on it’s own, where I actually enjoy listening to “Geek Down” by itself than hearing Theodore Unit rap on it because it’s that fucking good.

The tracks have life. That bears repeating, because instrumental music, barring the Ritalin-deprived stabbings of mathrock, tech metal and its offshoots, tends to seem ghostly. Music without voice very often sees disembodied and incorporeal, and my experience with Donuts has led me to believe that rapping and singing goes beyond having an aural pneumonic to distract listeners from the repetitiousness of music, it can ground it in something tangible, something of flesh, something to reduce the distance between the sounds and your mind. There’s a profound loneliness to sound without voice, which probably explains why soul samples became so prevalent during the decade. We desperately needed to feel warm and human, to escape the banality of life and fatigue of tragedies, and at his best, that’s exactly what James Yancey could do.

Here’s hoping heaven’s got an MPC.


Christopher’s blog about rap and metal and lots of other stuff is Fuck I Look Like?

SAMPLE: “Not Available” by Shuggie Otis off Inspiration Information
For a long time, I didn’t trust “Donuts Samples” lists that said “Not Available” was the basis of “Donuts (Outro)”, in part because too many said lists called the Shuggie song “Unknown Track”, but mainly because I just didn’t hear it. And Inspiration Information–like Donuts–is one of those “my apartment’s burning down I can only take a few CDs with me” CDs, so I figured I would’ve caught it at some point. Then one day, I finally heard it.

It’s those strings flicking around in the background! He found a space on the song where Shuggie’s pristine guitar plucks or the fumbling bass didn’t crowd the strings, sped it up, raised the volume, and looped it. Reminds me ?uestlove’s “The Little Brother Beat Story, in terms of just how like, oddball or different Dilla’s brain is working when he goes to flip a sample. There also seems to be some other samples bouncing around this 10 second album-starter, some slightly roboticized soul-singer’s “I don’t care wha-”, a melodic maybe piano thump bouncing along, and towards the end, before the track’s harshly interrupted by those Mantronix sirens on “Workinonit”, a moment of watery 70s synths–anybody know where that’s from?

Written by Brandon

February 2nd, 2009 at 1:45 am

Raymond Scott: Electronic Pioneer, Imminent Hip-Hop Sample Staple…Action Figure?

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For the 100th anniversary of Raymond Scott’s birth, PressPOP’s making an action figure of the composer/guy sampled in some Dilla and Madlib tracks/electronics pioneer and it looks pretty cool.

Similar to the Robert Moog figure–and a Kauffman brothers figure?–a couple years ago, this one similarly takes a retro cartoon style to the figure and design (done by Archer Prewitt of The Sea and Cake), but adds a CD that gives you a short but effective sampling of Scott’s work. You get “Powerhouse” one of his best jokey jazz tunes, three tracks of Scott discussing his electronic music inventions, and “The Happy Whistler” from his proto-Ambient Music Soothing Sounds for Baby record.

What’s interesting about the CD is how it takes the time represent every era of Scott’s musical career and also, accidentally charts the way that Scott’s posthumous reputation has changed. Most slept-on, didn’t quite make it, musical footnotes are lucky if they have a single un-earthing and recontextualization of their music; in the past decade or so, Scott’s gone through quite a few.

He’s gone from the slept-on dude that composed a lot of Carl Stalling’s Looney Tunes music, to novelty weirdo that made joke jazz with titles like “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals” that ended up in a lot of Looney Tunes stuff, to jazz weirdo that also made electronic music and invented electronic instruments, to a guy whose reputation’s now almost entirely tilted in the direction of proto-electronica prophet.

Much of Scott’s shifting reputation has to do with how his music’s been re-released and how it jibes or doesn’t jibe with what music dorks are really into at the time. His jazz music was first re-released on CD in the early 90s and pretty much contextualized as “this is the guy that composed a lot of that crazy, super-memorable Looney Tunes music” and was an attempt to gather Scott’s compositions and give proper credit to him. Not that Stalling did anything wrong, he’s usually credited with something like “Musical Direction” and all of Scott’s music was licensed to Warner Brothers, but still.

Scott’s jazz then, was mainly being connected to the cartoons which no doubt fit Scott’s music in both sound and song titles (“The Penguin”, “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals”, “Powerhouse”) but also relegated the music to being an odd footnote and essentially novelty music. In the late 90s, the Reckless Nights compilation came out and sounded way better and was more appreciative, with more biographical information–and the first hints of discussing his electronic work–and framed his music as whimsical and fun and fascinating.

Still, there seemed to be a distance between the actual music and why the music was significant enough to get a re-release. My ears have always heard some early rumblings of bop, for like Parker, Monk, etc. Scott’s jazz–all of which was composed in the late thirties making it pre-bop–was a response to the stale formulas of swing music. Because jazz writers are stuffy turds, they usually don’t like to think of this stuff too much, but it’s not hard to imagine that Parker or Monk took a little inspiration from that Looney Tunes music. Scott’s music is fun and it certainly does swing but it also wanders or waddles into weird, odd jagged corners of thumping drums and depressed squonks and then bursts into something really exuberant or wild and everything else.

A lot of instrumental music has goofy or weird titles but generally, you get the sense the composer thought of a title that explained how the music sounds after the fact. With Scott’s music, whether it’s true or not, you get the sense “Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner” came to him as a phrase and then he rushed down to his quintet and pulled out of their instruments and his brain, a song that was the jazzy approximation of a restless night on an ocean liner.

And semi-violent adjectives like “pull” aren’t too off if you read the liner notes of Reckless which makes Scott into a pretty strict and demanding composer. It sounds like the same way James Brown handled the J.Bs, nothing written down but this already-perfect vision of the song that’s then hummed and sung to the performers until somehow, they fucking play exactly what Mr. Brown hears between his ears.

Scott though, kept the music to those same hard-ass strict rules performing live too and so, the music was jazz without the cornerstone of jazz: improvisation. While the lack of improvisation mixed with the bumpy fun of the the tracks confused stuffy jazz critics–here’s a really fun and in a lot of ways not necessarily incorrect review from 1939–it’s really brilliant on Scott’s part to have this odd tension between the inherent, however hyper-rehearsed chaos of the tracks and the fact that they didn’t move or waver from their pre-planned start and end. It made the music useless in a way, it wasn’t jazz music and although apparently popular, it wasn’t exactly the pop of the time either, but useless in the way really good art should be useless…as this weird, rarified thing that doesn’t totally connect to any specific audience or genre or whatever and just kinda is. Weird and “useless” the way an action figure of a electronic music pioneer is weird and useless, you know?

Interestingly though, most of the re-issues of Scott’s music since 2000 or so have been of his electronic music. This no doubt, is because the music itself is truly deserving of re-release, but it also has to do with the audience or intended audience for record nerd oddities, and up, up, up cartoon jazz isn’t anymore appealing in 2000 than it was in 1939, while a dude fiddling in his basement with home-made electronics and keyboards and everything else totally is.

Which explains the release of Scott’s electronic experiments, soundtrack work, and commercial jingle work from the 1950s and 60s Manhattan Research. For a CD like this to come out in the early 2000s was fortuitous, as it made music that was previously impossible to hear relatively easy to obtain and ingest (I recall picking it up in the TOWER records that was once at the bottom floor of Trump Tower). A small group of electronic music fans and crate-digging, sample-grabbing rap kids have latched onto this release–you now see it on record way more than CD–and a few people here and there have sampled it, most notably perhaps, Dilla on Donuts’s “Lightworks” and Madlib on Beat Conducta’s “Electric Company (Voltage-Watts)”.

-J Dilla “Lightworks”

-Raymond Scott “Lightworks”

The relevance and prevalence of Manhattan Research will only grow and grow as two of the most worshipped sample-flipping beatmakers around have gone to Raymond Scott’s music. This mixed with the apparently here to stay trend in rap and R & B towards scronky, retro-futurism might just turn Scott, when it comes to sampling, into the next James Brown.

Interestingly though, no one’s really flipped or done anything too crazy or cool with a Scott sample. Dilla and Madlib just sort of loop it and chop it, and while that’s to be expected from Madlib, one could easily imagine Dilla obsessively rearranging and editing Scott’s crazy sounds into something almost unidentifiable.

So far though, my favorite Scott sample has been the use of “Cyclic Bit” on El-P’s “T.O.J”:

-El-P “T.O.J”

-Raymond Scott “Cyclic Bit”

The track employs a couple of other Scott samples that I hear but can’t immediately identify without consulting Manhattan Research but the most effective is “Cyclic Bit”. El-P uses it towards this pretty amazing like, clouds-part and the sun comes out feeling of musical epiphany as his really affecting and minus the space-shit or hyper-lyrical hard-assisms opening verse stops after a resigned “I used to be in love…” and we get maybe a half-second of silence and then Scott’s wobbly electronics flutter through to punctuate the heaviness of the verse. Interestingly, El-P too, doesn’t really chop or flip the sample, he just sort of inserts it in there and builds upon it for an extended, slow-building breakdown that blows-up into a coda-like rap-chant to end the song.

Written by Brandon

December 2nd, 2008 at 6:58 am

City Paper Review: J Dilla ‘Jay Love Japan’

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Since J Dilla’s death in 2006, record labels’ response to fan’s demands to hear all things James Dewitt Yancey has been met with equal parts homage and exploitation. Where Jay Love Japan falls is hard to say.

Available in bootleg and quasi-official Japan-only releases for a while, it’s good to see Japan in places other than sketchy bit-torrent sites. But at barely 20 minutes long and with no vinyl pressing, at retail price this release is a little too cash-in for comfort. Still, the music within is as teary and joyful as that happy Hokusai on the cover.

Japan’s a terse whirl through Dilla’s entire production career. The clipped acoustic guitar in “Yesterday” looks back to his early production, such as the Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” while the song’s use of record crackle as a percussive element–not simply atmosphere–recalls the obsessive sample-slicing of his later work. The electro weirdness of “Say It” pays debt to the Detroit techno of Dilla’s hometown and feels straight from his own work on Q-Tip’s Amplified, reminding poptimists in need of a history lesson that radio’s current rave-hop trend owes a little to Dilla.

“Believe in God” is a make-you-wanna-cry instrumental, like something off Donuts, Dilla’s beat-tape/life-and-death meditation: A guy near death flips soul samples to emote and provide beyond-the-grave advice. “Believe in God’” is an order, but the music gives heads plenty just to enjoy. Soul-strings flail around as thin vocals cry out “God.” It’s a producer beyond hot beats, with some pretty real shit on his mind.

Also, check out Al Shipley’s article on the death of Baltimore hip-hop figurehead Mr. Wilson: Michael Dante Wilson, Jan. 23, 1973-June 5, 2008.

Written by Brandon

June 25th, 2008 at 8:12 am

How Big Is Your World? Good, Recent Rap-ish Songs


-Hot Stylez featuring Yung Joc ‘Lookin’ Boy’
Click here to download ‘Lookin’ Boy’
This queerby kid I used to know that went to art-school in Brooklyn told me about how one night he was taking the subway back to his room with a bunch of other art-school queerbys and this homeless black dude kept harassing him, saying stuff like “Yo, this nigga- this nigga looks like he eats cookie-dough ice cream!”. Well, ‘Lookin Boy’ is sort of that brilliant insult in song-form. Like, it doesn’t really make any sense that you can explain but you hear it and you know what Hot Stylez and Yung Joc are talking about and it’s fucking hilarious and like spot-on, somehow.

It’s basically a song illustrating what every nerd or asshole I know spends a lot of their time doing…these sort of vaguely-offensive, people-watching insults that aren’t necessarily that mean but are like really accurate and get extra points for diving kinda deep into pop-culture for the joke: David Ruffin, Morris Chesnut in ‘Boyz in tha Hood’, presumably that weird short gross lady from ‘The Weakest Link’, Lambchop…

-J Dilla ‘Believe in God’
Click here to download ‘Believe in God’
From ‘Jay Love Japan’, finally released on CD in America last month and even at like, 17 minutes and around 13 dollars: worth it. The lazy fade-in on this track is perfect and the record sampled is pretty blown-out, all full of fuzz that adds this additional percussive element, which along with those Dilla drums we just expect on everything Dilla made, is pretty devastating. ‘Believe In God’ hits its peak when those soul-strings are cut short and whirling around and folding into one another along with some subtle piano, wordless vocals, and then…it fades-out too fast and that’s perfect too.

What’s great about the title of this song is it’s an order: Believe in God. A lot of beat-makers give their songs these sort of moderately profound-sounding, atmospheric titles, and it’s easy to imagine a beat with a nebulous title like ‘Belief in God’ that suggests somehow the song imparts the feeling of a belief in God but this track’s like Dilla telling you to believe in God. It feels like the weird conflation of DJ-ing, beat-making, and whatever else on ‘Donuts’ where these perfectly tweaked soul and weirdo samples were used to really fucking say something from a guy who you know, was dying and all, so he had some pretty-real shit on his mind.

-Jay Electronica ‘I Feel Good’
Click here to download ‘I Feel Good’
A simple chipmink soul sample, some back-and-forth piano, and some simple drums and a catchy chorus that doesn’t fall-back on R & B histrionics, it’s neither street shit or rap and bullshit and it’s a lot of other stuff too. What can you say to a pretty brilliant attack on anti-Southern rap sentiment that really reminds this hyperbolic asshole of early Nas?

Like a dick, I blew off Jay Electronica at first, but Monique hipped me to that ‘What the F- is a Jay Electronica’ mix put out by WEDOITRIGHT and there’s plenty to like and quite a few songs that more than explain dude’s “hype”. Like a ‘College Dropout’ and before era Kanye West who just made hot soul beats and joke songs and didn’t give a shit or like those early ‘Doomsday’-era MF singles, Jay Electronica feels like a rapper actually full of potential and not like he’s blowing all he’s got on his mixtape. Jay’s 31 and I think that’s important to remember; he’s had a lot of time to think about a lot of stuff and it shows. Bonus points for not referencing “haters” but getting to the heart of what makes everyone in the world not feel good: “…the dumb shit that people say.”

-Ryan Leslie ‘Diamond Girl’
Click here to download ‘Diamond Girl’
The guy that made the still-good-every-time-you-hear-it beat for Cassie’s ‘Me & U’ has this sort of out-there crazy R & B jam that has none of the irony of R. Kelly or the robo-jokes of T-Pain. He’s actually serious in singing this sexy song for the ladies or really, for one very special girl, which is awesome and also, makes it more like an older love song. Fuck these post-modern loverboys with girls on the side, this guy with a name that sounds like he should be a cast member on ‘The Hills’ might be where it’s at.

See, Kanye West or Pharrell try to make songs like this but they sit down and are like “Yo, this is some Space-Vegas shit” so it comes out like, planned and a little mannered and don’t get me wrong, that still rules (the Pharrell/Kanye track on the new Madonna album comes really close), but ‘Diamond Girl’ is just this power-up in an NES game disco party synth-line over and over, a few extra bloops, and then some like rappers’ swagger on the vocals (he kinda goes Lil Wayne late in the song), along with some goofy lover-man sincerity! Yes!

-M83 ‘Couleurs’
Click here to download ‘Couleurs’
The new M83 album ‘Saturdays=Youth’ is great not because it somehow “captures” the 80s or teen angst or whatever else people who don’t actually listen say, but because it actually takes all those feelings and musical influences, and not only the “cool” ones critics feel comfortable citing. That’s to say, there’s nothing hip or ironic about ‘Saturdays=Youth’, it’s real and awesome and embarrassingly sincere and moves beyond 80s music signifiers or homage.

Yeah, there’s a lot of New Order bouncing around- especially on this song- and “Blade Runner’ synths” reads/sounds cooler than “a Vangelis influence” even though they are the same thing, and but there’s also like Christopher Cross and John Carpenter and ‘Knightrider’ and tons of Michael Mann soundtrack and it has some like electronic cow-bell and maybe some 808s and this great part where it slows-down and kinda funks-out.

-And click here to download all five songs; they make a pretty good mix.

Written by Brandon

May 2nd, 2008 at 9:40 am

Some Ol’ Terminator Shit

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“This is my baby. This is one of those joints I’ve heard in my head from time to time, (crazy right?), but could never duplicate. Until now. Done with hi-hat from a 909, an oscillator, a metronome click for a kick drum and the magnificent Triton keyboard and there u have it. Reminds me of some ol’ Terminator shit.”-J Dilla on ‘B.B.E (Big Booty Express)’

Brad Fiedel’s score for ‘The Terminator’ is one of the most identifiable scores in modern movies, which is really weird when you think about it, because it’s a sorta super-minimal electronic score that if not accompanied by great action scenes, normal people would never give a second thought. This is one of the most interesting things about movie scores; because they act as “background music”, they can do some really weird and experimental stuff and totally get away with it. In that way, it is similar to rap music which to so many, is still either only pop music or silly party music and as a result, Timbaland can drop baby sounds and blah blah blah and they get away with it because no one is listening for it to be “weird” or whatever. If you call it “minimalist electronic”, people won’t listen; if you call it “the score to ‘The Terminator”, it’s a modern Hollywood classic!

I’ve picked my two favorite tracks from ‘The Terminator’ score, the highly-identifiable ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Tunnel Chase’, which has this sounds-like-ass percussion, this super-cheesy but great ‘Owner of Lonely Heart’-ish synth stabs, and gurgling synths…they seemed to have a big influence on Dilla…

-‘Main Theme’ by Brad Fiedel off ‘Terminator OST’
-‘Tunnel Chase’ by Brad Fiedel off ‘Terminator OST’.

-‘Go Hard’ by Q-Tip off ‘Amplified’ (Produced by Dilla): When I recently re-discovered this album, I was struck by how weird it is and how my perception of it when it came out, as some kind of sell-out album was really knee-jerk. Just the prevalance of electronics probably made me blow it off- just as now the same is done to so many Southern producers- but I feel even dumber about myself because this album is kinda overtly bizarre and electronic. On the first track, you get about 18 seconds of electronic pulse (the same length sustained on ‘Go Hard’) and a couple of other tracks go pretty deep into this style. It’s great the way ‘Go Hard’ begins with these very ‘Terminator’ pulses and then the beat drops and Q Tip starts rapping and it sounds like every other track on ‘Amplified’ but Dilla does a cool thing of bringing the pulses back for the chorus and you begin to hear them hiding in the background of the rest of the beat…really great.

-‘B.B.E (Big Booty Express)’ by J Dilla off ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’: This song is presented as a kind of rework of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ but ‘B.B.E’, like Dungeon Family’s ‘Trans DF Express’ (I never understood why it wasn’t Trans Dungeon Express, but oh well), is a slight homage to the Electronic classic turned early hip-hop sampling staple but more just an excuse to do some serious electronic shit on a hip-hop album. It also touches on Dilla’s Detroit influences, especially 80s Detroit techno, which has some of its roots in Kraftwerk and like that subgenre, Dilla grabs electronic throbs and robotic rhythms but makes them a little warmer and danceable. Kraftwerk were purposefully calculated and intellectual, in part as a parody of Germanic coldness, but they really did seem to occupy a weird contempt/love of dance music (see: ‘Showroom Dummies’) that Americans who gleaned their influence don’t have. It’s interesting that while ‘B.B.E’ is Kraftwerk “in spirit”, the only part it outright swipes is the delivery of the chorus…those brief pauses between words. In that sense, it’s right in-line with most rap sampling, grabbing the melody from a past classic and taking it somewhere newer and weirder…It’s telling that in Dilla’s discussion of the song (quoted earlier in the post) he doesn’t reference Kraftwerk but does mention its connections to ‘The Terminator’ theme; Maybe because the ‘Trans Europe Express’ connection is super-obvious but also because the song has the tangible menace and arpeggiated lines of the music from ‘The Terminator’.

-‘Black Terminator’ by Cyrus tha Great off ‘A Kite to Dilla’: This indie producer crafted a pretty nice beat-tape in the style of Dilla and manages an appropriate homage. ‘Black Terminator’ has less to do with the side of Dilla that conjures up images of head-wraps and poetry readings than the side that made stuff that sounded like “that ol’ Terminator shit”. The title ‘Black Terminator’, conjures up images of some kind of bizarro world, lower-budget exploitation version of ‘Terminator’, starring like Carl Weathers or something, in the vein of 70s blaxploitation stuff like ‘Black Caesar’, ‘Blackenstein’, or ‘Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde.’ and that sort of works, as the song is a little less rigid and rhythmic than the Terminator theme. Cyrus’ sorta off-beat beat and some really simple synth-lines that play over and over and manage to capture some of the hypnotic qualities of Dilla’s sparer beats and still resemble the Fiedel score.

Written by Brandon

November 12th, 2007 at 5:04 am

Posted in J-Dilla, films

Biographical Dictionary of Film Entry: J Dilla

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First though- do any kind readers of this blog live in New York and have a place for myself and Monique (editor/my girlfriend) to stay Tuesday, September 11th? My Father has a business trip to New York on Wednesday but Tuesday night is the Kanye in-store at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square- maybe even someone out there was planning on going anyways? I could even give you like a 100 bucks or so. I know that’s sort of weird but if anybody does, e-mail me: .

We’re both very nice and polite guests and really just need a place to sleep for the night. My only stipulation is NO ASSRAPE.

So, yeah. It’s been a busy week, starting teaching and all, so I’m a little behind on regular posts but I did manage to knock-out another entry for The Biographical Dictionary of Rap:

“Jay Dilla aka Jay Dee (James Yancey)
b. Detroit, Michigan, 1974-2006
1996: Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia. 1996: Slum Village’s Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1. 1996: A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes, Life. 1998: A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement. 1999: Q-Tip’s Amplified.2000: D’Angelo’s Voodoo. 2000: Common’s Like Water for Chocolate. 2000: Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun. 2000: Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2.2001: Fuck the Police Single. 2001: Welcome 2 Detroit.2002: Common’s Electric Circus. 2003: Jaylib’s Champion Sound. 2003: Ruff Draft EP. 2006: Donuts. 2006: The Shining. 2007: Phat Kat’s Carte Blanche.200?: Jay Love Japan.

Dilla is that odd kid in your elementary school, never talking, head-down, drawing weird comic book worlds with little interest in recess, as if he discovered alienation and angst six grades before everybody else. You peek over at his drawing and he covers it up, maybe even has a 49ers folder ready to stick over ridiculously detailed sketches. That image might be the result of posthumous idealization, but the true stories cum legends, how he hid in the car with his Mom outside of the Grammys, how he made beats in the hospital rail-thin and dying, are inspiring whether they are totally true or not because the music sounds like a dude that did that stuff. I recall reading after his death that he was survived by children…can you imagine Dilla having sex? I thought he never left the studio?!

Especially after his death, Dilla was referred to over and over again as “the producer’s producer” and while that may be accurate- his reputation among a wide variety of beatmakers and serious rap nerds is unmatched- his style is too out-there and rarified to really take that title. It is more appropriately given to someone like DJ Premier because the “blank’s blank” in any artform generally suggests unmatched virtuosity, that is only fully appreciated by the obsessives and it was not Dilla’s virtuosity that made his music fly over the heads of the normies but his disinterest in not being obscure.

He’s the kind of guy that will forever be an influence on others but short of his development of the “neo-soul” sound, Dilla was not tangibly “significant”. Pharrell Williams’ thick, loud drums have their roots in a Dilla influence and Kanye West’s grab-from-anywhere-obvious-or-obscure sampling does too, but neither of them are “Dilla-esque”. That’s because no one really sounds like Dilla and it will forever stay that way.

The early work, for the most part, really is “producer’s producer” type stuff. A lot of it, defined the too-subtle, too-laid back bohemian neo-soul, “concious” sound that bores me to tears. He got an early reputation as the guy who “ruined” Tribe and the Pharcyde and while there might be some validity to the Tribe accusations, those Pharcyde beats are undeniable. Labcabincalifornia isn’t “fun” but it’s not boring and it’s actually mature and you know, not “mature”. It seems however, that into the 2000s, he grew tired of maturity and “maturity”. Recognizing that “neo-soul” had become a grotesque cliche, Dilla began releasing solo works that succeeded any of his work for others.

2001 saw him leaving the group he helped found Slum Village, switching his name from Jay Dee to J Dilla, allegedly to avoid confusion with Jermaine Dupri but I think, to reflect a change in attitude. The single Fuck the Police has a beat and message immediate as his earlier work had been contained and subtle. That same year, on the BBE label, he released Welcome 2 Detroit featuring a bunch of friends and an insanely varied but cohesive group of songs. His Donald Byrd cover ‘Think Twice’ is a wonderful 70s soul-jazz vamp, that is a homage without winking or nodding, even the super-sexy keyboard intro doesn’t sound like camp- but then it ends with 40 or so seconds of audio of a bunch of friends talking and then running from random gunfire; Dilla began to define himself by contrast and contradiction.

In 2002, he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable blood disease. Although his integrity was always unmatched, it’s hard not to read an increased not giving a shit to the fact that he had an incurable disease. It appears that he began completely following his muse (not that he hadn’t already but still-), working on Common’s polarizing Electric Circus and showing little interest in giving production to acts that weren’t his friends. That same year, a solo album and album with Detroit rappers Frank-N-Dank, went unreleased by MCA and as the liner notes for Stones Throw’s re-release off Ruff Draft tell the story, this inspired him to make that EP (knowing he was going to probably die early had something to do with it too).

Ruff Draft is Dilla’s statement of intent, although not his most accomplished or best release, it feels angry, contrarian, and inspired. Over increasingly avant samples, whirls of sounds and lo-fi beats, he spits with equal anger against those killing the game and the backpackers: “And those backpackers wanna confuse it/Niggas is icy ain’t got nothing to do with the music” (from ‘Make Em’ NV’). One interlude is simply a poorly recorded answering machine message of a woman bitching him out and that segues into ‘Crushin’ an off-kilter half-groove containing the chant “I wanna fuck all night”. Of course, the album also contains the emotional ‘Nothing Like This’ a love song and an outro track that cites friends and influences; again with the contrast. His collaboration with the Madlib, Champion Sound, is well-loved by fans but I find it to be only halfway engaging (the Dilla half).

In 2005, his health problems became more public and more apparent and he was also diagnosed with Lupus. The stories are well-known and touching: Dilla in and out of the hospital, working on beats from a hospital bed, his Mom and friends at his side. Donuts, released on his birthday in 2006 (and what turned out to be three days before is death), is his masterpiece. Knee-jerk cynics suggested that it would not have been embraced the way it was/is/will be if it were not on the heels of his death, but that’s missing the point because it is an album about death. I’d understand if the posthumous The Shining received vast amounts of praise the way Donuts did, but it did not because one is a complete, complex piece or art and one is a conventional producer album, with different rappers on each song (the instrumental version of The Shining however, makes for a great listen).This guy that runs this great record store in Baltimore told my friend that Donuts is “[J-Dilla’s] love-letter to the world” and that isn’t far-off. I won’t even attempt to articulate the greatness of Donuts, you just need to hear it.

Songs You Should Have On Your IPod:
‘Stakes Is High’ (off De La Soul’s Stakes Is High)
‘Runnin’ (off Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia)
‘Somethin That Means Something’ (off Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia)
‘Got ‘Til Its Gone’ (off Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope)
‘Dynamite’ (off the Roots’ Things Fall Apart)
‘The Light’ (off Common’s Like Water for Chocolate)
‘Thelonius’ (off Common’s Like Water for Chocolate)
‘Let’s Grow’ (off Lyricist’s Lounge 2, song by Royce Da 5′9″)
‘Climax’ (off Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2)
‘Fuck the Police’ (off Fuck the Police Single)
‘Think Twice’ (off Welcome 2 Detroit)
‘Pause’ (off Welcome 2 Detroit)
‘The $’ (off Ruff Draft EP)
‘Crushin (Yeah)’ (off Ruff Draft EP)
‘Starz’ (off Jaylib’s Champion Sound)
‘Reunion [MC Only]‘ (off Slum Village’s Detroit Deli)
‘Time: Donut of the Heart’ (off Donuts)
‘Dilla Says Go’ (off Donuts)
‘Last Donuts of the Night’ (off Donuts)
‘Whip You With A Strap’ (off Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale)
‘So Far to Go’ (off The Shining)”

Written by Brandon

September 7th, 2007 at 6:32 pm

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Trimming the Fat: ‘Ruff Draft’ & ‘Detroit Deli’.

The recent Stones Throw re-release of J Dilla’s ‘Ruff Draft EP’ contains two alternate takes of the ‘Intro’ track and the outro track ‘Shouts’, as well as two unreleased songs ‘Wild’ and ‘Take Notice’. The alternate takes and unreleased tracks are interesting as examples of Dilla as self-editor. Earlier in the year, I happened to come upon a promo version of Slum Village’s ‘Detroit Deli’ containing two tracks that didn’t make the official album release: ‘Intro’ and ‘Hood Hoes’. These tracks must have been removed at the last minute because some online reviews even mention ‘Hood Hoes’ in reviews; tellingly, these reviews are often negative towards the song.

To see what the artist removed from the album, unlike rap-dork rearranging, is grounded in reality and therefore, a bit more relevant. Looking at these removed or altered tracks moves the listener closer to the thinking of the musician. Concerns with pacing, track-order, content, etc. present the musician as sculptor. Once the songs are finished, the album begins, and the musician starts chipping away, making things smaller or different in an attempt to make a cohesive product.

Part One: Ruff Draft, the EP.

Beginning with the ‘Intro’ track where Dilla calls the music you are about to hear “that real, live shit” down to the lyrics, which oppose materialistic rap as well as backpacker rap (lyrics from ‘The $’: “and these backpackers wanna confuse it/Cause niggas is icy ain’t got nuthin to do with the music”), the EP is undoubtedly Dilla’s statement of self. The music is too weird to ever be picked-up by the corporate rap of the time but the aggressive focus on money and sex puts it in a weird position in relation to the “conscious” rap Dilla is generally connected to. The album isn’t really for anybody but at the same time, it isn’t overtly contrarian; it’s length and scope have a modesty that nearly all of Dilla’s work maintains. Even when singing his song of self, Dilla does it in a way that is never off-putting.

Part Two: EP song vs. Alternate Take

-‘Intro’ vs. ‘Intro (Alt)’

The ‘Intro’ found on ‘Ruff Draft’ is short and sweet, no music, just Dilla introducing the album; it lasts 17 seconds. The alternate take is 48 seconds long, with an incredible beat, the kind of thing DJ Shadow would make if he actually had a soul. The beat bounces as a really trippy, ghostly voice sample echoes in the background; the set-up to a John Woo shoot-out could be choreographed to it: slow motion guns being drawn, atmospheric walking, that kind of thing. Over the beat, Dilla excitedly yells a series of typical Dilla clichés “Yeah! Uh!…Brand new…long-awaited…yeah…I’m back…shut it down…there’s a whole lot of imitatin’ goin’ on!” In every way the alternate intro is “better” but if was actually placed on the album it wouldn’t really fit. That Dilla would just get rid of a beat this cool is a testament to his interest in a cohesive product. The simpler ‘Intro’ of just Dilla talking directly to the listener is more effective in introducing the EP while briefly delaying the music. The alternate ‘Intro’ also does not transition well into ‘Let’s Take It Back’ so, a cool-sounding song is ultimately sacrificed for the overall listenability of the EP. The differing lengths are also notable because by using the ‘Intro’ which is 1/3 the length of the alternate intro, it is one step towards reducing the EP’s already-short length.

-‘Shouts’ vs. ’Shouts (Alt)’
Again, the alternate version is the more conventionally “good” track. ‘Shouts’ is a sort of sputtering, rickety, falling-apart-sounding “beat” with Dilla calling out his worthy peers, friends, and acquaintances. ‘Shouts (Alt)’ is a loud, excited beat that stands-out. Using the same sampled drums found on Dilla’s ‘Fuck the Police’ single, along with some weird space bloops, and punctuated by a vocal sample of some guy saying “Baby-”, Dilla lists an extensive list of once again, friends, acquaintances, peers, and influences. The alternate ‘Outro’ is perhaps “too good” in the sense of calling attention to itself in a way that an outro track really shouldn’t. Particularly when the outro is following up ‘Crushin’ which is similarly sloppy, it would be odd to return to a conventional beat, so the shambolic ‘Outro’ works better than the concise, quantified ‘Outro (Alt)’.

Part Three: Deleted Tracks

This song seems to be a favorite among many since the re-release and although there is nothing wrong with it, it’s a bit too funny and gimmicky to really fit the seriousness of the rest of ‘Ruff Draft’. The EP isn’t self-serious, but it does have a certain strident tone that begins with Dilla’s assertive intro. The track is weird but in a novelty way, with a British girl singing Slade (not Quiet Riot) as the instruments either try to keep up with her sloppy singing or they were forced to play to the sloppy singing; either way, it’s all just a little too fun and light compared to the rest of ‘Ruff Draft’.

-‘Take Notice’
The beat of this song is used on track 6 of ‘Ruff Draft’, the first ‘Interlude’. This is interesting because it gives the listener insight into the way an artist often recycles or reuses an idea with the smallest of alterations. Nothing is wrong with the track, although the gun-talk is a bit incongruous with the rest of the album, but it just wouldn’t add anything to the overall feeling of the EP. The track is also 4 minutes and 25 seconds, a lot longer than any other track on ‘Ruff Draft’ and features a guest, Guilty Simpson. The guest appearance seems particularly at odds with the EP’s concept of being the announcement of a new style for Dilla; using people other than Dilla on the EP just seems strange. Like all of the bonus tracks, other than ‘Wild’, length may be the primary issue. The EP functions as Dilla’s assertion of self but at the same time, it’s a modest, quick assertion and the relatively lengthy ‘Intro (Alt)’, ‘Outro (Alt)’, and ‘Take Notice’ just wouldn’t fit.

Part One: Detroit Deli, the album.

I’ve already discussed this album kinda in-depth here but basically, I find it to be a remarkably consistent and emotionally affecting album. Many of the songs focus on women and sex without a cloying or obnoxious tone. As I said before, unlike more conventional “conscious” rappers Slum Village define themselves by what they do rather than what they don’t do.

Part Two: Deleted Tracks

When you’re a group like Slum Village, that is to say, sorry- but one that isn’t particularly notable, length and repetition will ruin you. Rappers with bigger personalities can give you a few weak tracks and it may not stand-out as much. This intro is a bit of a mess, the first five seconds or so is a soul-sample which stops for a second or two before a horn loop plays as we get, like the Dilla ‘Intro (Alt), a bunch of “we back!” intro clichés and then some freestyle-sounding raps over the horn-loop. It’s just not really essential. The very end of the ‘Intro’ is the sound of a car door opening, closing, engine starting, and driving away. On the official version of ‘Detroit Deli’ this car part is tacked to the beginning of ‘Zoom’, the rest of the ‘Intro’ is gone and very little is lost as a result. The album becomes one track and 2 minutes shorter.

-Hood Hoes’
On the promo, this track is placed between ‘Dirty’ and ‘Late 80s Skit’. The beat on this song is notable, a sort of flanged-out acoustic guitar note looped over some drums that are cut particularly short. My speculation is the content of the song, a rather negative song about women (as the title would suggest) led to its exclusion from the final version of ‘Detroit Deli’. Personally, I couldn’t give a shit about the content in terms of it being offensive or not but in relation to the other songs, it does come off even more harsh. The second half of ‘Detroit Deli’, beginning with ‘Selfish’ moves in a rather sad, sympathetic direction with a series of songs about women. Placing ‘Hood Hoes’ before these songs but not following it up with ‘Selfish’ just puts it in a weird, tacked-on position in relation to the other tracks. Once again, nothing bad about the track it just isn’t essential. The only thing that may be lost is a really nice aural transition into ‘Late 80s Skit’: The song ends but then, the drums pick-up again with added strength and without the flanged-guitar, and play-out for 10 seconds or so, building up to ‘Late 80s Skit’.

Written by Brandon

May 1st, 2007 at 12:24 am

Posted in J-Dilla, Slum Village