J Dilla



by STLMiguel USER (20 Reviews)
May 22nd, 2006 | 563 replies

Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

You may not recognize the name J Dilla, but if you're a fan of quality hip-hop, you're probably more familiar with the man's work than you realize.

Dilla, also known as Jay Dee for much of his career, was a phenomenal producer who made beats for artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde, De La Soul, Common, Eryka Badu, Ghostface Killah and Talib Kweli. He was also a founding member of Slum Village, though he eventually left the group, and he recorded an album with Madlib in 2003 called Champion Sound. Champion Sound wasn't as big a smash as, say, Madvillain, Madlib's 2004 collaboration with MF Doom, but it was a loose, fun record in the spirit of Quasimoto's The Unseen.

Sadly, Dilla suffered from lupus, which destroys your immune system, and he was forced to finish work on Donuts while in the hospital. He did finish the album, but he died of kidney failure just days after it was released.

A tragic story, yes, and I'm sorry for taking up to much time to explain background information, but it needed to be said. And it was.

Now we can move on.

First off, Donuts is an incredible album. Its made up entirely of instrumentals, the longest clocking it at just under three minutes, but its unbelievably consistent and has more passion than 99% of the hip-hop albums released today.

Dilla's style could be compared to Madlib's, since both were heavily influenced by jazz and both love sampling the most obscure records possible, but its will also remind listeners of Kanye West.

The biggest difference between Dilla and West, though, is that West is all about turning samples into mega hooks and rapping about how goddamn magnificent he is at everything. Dilla, on the other hand, seems perfectly happy remaining in the background letting his beats do the talking. He rapped at times, sure, but it was usually more for fun than selling millions.

There isn't a bad song on this entire record, so there are numerous highlights, "Workinonit," for instance, samples 10cc's "The Worst Band in the World" and will have you dancing in no time. It's a playful track, as is a majority of Donuts, but it isn't so catchy or hook-heavy that you'll grow tired of it after several listens. In fact, if anything, I think I dig this song more each time I hear it.

Other highlights include "Stop!" and "The Diff'rence," which both revolve around old funk samples, and "One for Ghost," which Ghostface Killah fans will recognize as the beat from Fishscale's "Whip You with a Strap." J Dilla produced the track for Ghost before he died, but I guess he still wanted an instrumental version on his own album.

Overall, Donuts is a hell of an album. It's fun, unpredictable and has an incredibly high replay value. The only thing that stops this from getting a perfect score is that I don't give those away easily and I don't quite feel prepared to go that far. But it is definitely worth checking out and I couldn't recommend it more.

For me, Donuts proves that Dilla would have eventually become a household album. Now, as it often works, he'll likely find greater fame dead than he ever did alive.

When you see the latest issue of "Scratch" magazine in newsstands and notice the Roots wearing Dilla T-shirts on the cover in honor of their fallen friend, you'll now know the story behind the photo. And maybe, while you're out, you'll track down a copy of this quality release. You'll be glad you did.

Album Highlights

"The New"
"The Diff'rence"
"One for Ghost"

Final Score: 4.5/5

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user ratings (1077)
other reviews of this album
TheSaneLunatic (4)
Donuts, J Dilla's last completed album before he past away, is a great album to have in your reperto...

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 22nd 2006


Awww, I was hoping this would be another Tortoise review.
[quote=review] Dilla’s style could be compared to Madlib’s, since both were heavily influenced by jazz and both love sampling the most obscure records possible, but its will also remind listeners of Kanye West.[/quote] This sounds awesome, good review.

Zesty Mordant
May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

the review was brief (especially due to the fact of the number of tracks to talk about), but nonetheless, was well done.

My only criticism of this album is that some songs are too brief and have the potential to be expanded, while others seem to long and repetitive (even if its two minutes long).

Favorite tracks are "The Diff'rence", "Stepson of the Clapper", "The New", and "Lightworks"

Electric City
May 22nd 2006


Meh, albums with 20 plus songs are very unlistenable to me. You end up with a lot of songs you don't remember and don't learn to experience the good parts of every individual track.

May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Well, since most of the songs are under a minute long and Dilla likely realized he WAS GOING TO DIE in the near future, it isn't really that big of a deal in this case.

Zesty Mordant
May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

ummm, no i don't think the album was short because he was going to die.

Its a generally an album of beats. the songs were most likely to be short in the first place.

May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

I didn't mean it was short because he was sick. I meant that being sick may be another reason to not hold back when putting out an album. It might be harder, for instance, to think, "Oh, I'll save this one" or something. I'm not even saying he did think that, just that it could be seen as a reason not to mind the large number of tracks.

May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Zesty, review some more hip-hop, this site needs a lot more covered and your old reviews I have read are excellent.

May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

This is fun.

Robert Crumb
May 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent collection of beats from an excellent producer. Nice review.

May 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, Crumb. And Hep, glad you dig it.

May 23rd 2006


Another swell review. That's what? Seven reviews in four days?

May 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Props on reviewing more underground hiphop albums, keep on. I might start doing some mid-90s hiphop reviews when my exams are over (in a month or so).

This album is great, one of the albums of the year for sure. Dilla is massively underrated on this site, I've noticed. He produced some of the best beats I've heard (I Am Music by Common and Running by the Pharcyde for instance). R.I.P.

May 6th 2007


This sounds interesting. I really like his work with Common, especially on "Resurrection"

May 12th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

dude dilla wasn't on resurrection. that was No I.D.

May 17th 2008


strange but Time: The Donuts of the Heart makes your soul feel better

May 17th 2008


I love J Dilla, man. Your review kicks ass.

(*The Noonward Race*)
July 14th 2008


I really don't enjoy donuts as much as his other stuff but it's indeed a hip hop nerdfest and satisfies in this very well, great music.

August 25th 2008


the naaaaaaaaaame of the gaaaaaaaaame

January 30th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

I used to say j dilla was overrated but now i think he's one of the best. this is an awesome album and is some of the best music to write to.

February 20th 2009



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