Review Summary: Disappointments lurk around every corner.
In the real world, two musical legends rarely ever collaborate with one another. So, hobbyists with nothing but time on their hands digitally rehash a pair of acclaimed pieces in order to satiate the masses and possibly gain reverance in the meantime. Often, this results in a not-so-satisfying, sloppy biproduct that falls far from the expectations the hype managed to generate. In hip-hop, this is a common practice; especially recently, where genre crossovers are relatively prevalent. So, when I witnessed an unofficial e-collaboration featuring work from New York street-hop legend Nas and deceased Detroit superproducer J Dilla titled Dillmatic
, I couldn't help it. I bit on the bait. That was a mistake. It was a nearly instant disappointment. A foreboding indication of the abundance of letdowns, Dillmatic
is not even a complete fusion of Jay Dee's final pre-humous album, 2006 instrumental hip-hop classic Donuts
and Nas's 1994 rap essential Illmatic
It's not that the concept of welding J Dilla beats and Nas vocals is farfetched or unmanageable. Jay Dee's clear soundscapes crafted with clomping drums, reverberating electronics, and smooth soul samples would seem to be a good fit for Nas's swift, back-of-throat delivery and distinctive style of street lore. It's that whoever did this project conducted this experiment in the worst way possible. Obviously ill-equipped to cut, splice, and combine multiple tracks, Squeek Boogie creates uncomfortable and conflicting tempos. On "One Love" - a track that was already successfully (unofficially) remixed by an MF Doom cut - the buzzing bass line, hissing percussion, and serene synths outpace Nas's flow by a tiny bit that is just enough to make the track feel awkward; and on "Nas Is Like," Nas pushes the pace a bit too fast for the array of electronics and windy soul loop to keep up with. On top of that, Squeek Boogie doesn't even pick the creme of the crop. For example, two of my favorite Dilla productions, "Lightworks" and "Raise It Up," don't appear, and new-era Nas songs like "Made You Look (Remix)" featuring Ludacris and Jadakiss and "Classic" featuring Kanye West and KRS-One are chosen over classics from his debut like "Memory Lane" and "N.Y. State of Mind."
That's not to say this compilation doesn't have its moments. "It Ain't Hard To Tell" is a fun song that features a beat with a downplayed bounce and one of Nas's lighter moods yet, and the Arabian beat and Nas's swaggering, serious tone compliment one another perfectly on "Made You Look (Remix)." Not coincidentally, both of the aforementioned tracks are synced flawlessly together.
suffers from poor execution, not a poor concept. If Nas and J Dilla had ever collaborated while the latter was still living, their record would have amountd to way more than this did. Heck, if a more able DJ had tried his hand at this, it would have amounted to more than this. With a 1:3 good-to-bad track ratio, this was exceedingly disappointing.
R.I.P James Dewitt Yancey (February 7th, 1974 - February 10th, 2006)