Dilla Did It

A few years back, in a roundtable discussion held at Stanford, The Coup’s Boots Riley suggested that the conscious rap label is more a reflection of aesthetics than subject matter. That a rapper could say the most ignorant thing over a smoothed out jazz loop and the positive minded crowd would still eat it up. Perhaps nobody better embodies this theory than J Dilla. The late producer/rapper spent just under a decade tricking the mocha latte crowd into buying raps about blunts and bitches by just spitting them over filtered basslines and Sylvers loops and then dropping two love songs at the end of the album. In that sense I have a lot of respect for the dude.

Pay Jay, Dilla’s previously unreleased album he recorded for MCA in 2003 was recently liberated to these internets and finds the acclaimed beat maker rapping primarily to the work of outside producers. Occasionally those of equal or greater talent shine (as is the case with Kanye’s “Takeover”-y “We F’d Up”), but for the most part it feels like a lot of these guys – Bink, Nottz, Dave West – just seem like they’re trying to play catch up with Jay. Why bring in outside producers if they’re just going to do what you do on an inferior level? [1]

As an emcee Dilla pretty frequently suffers from the same rapping producer conundrum that many great producers slaf hash good rappers – Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Large Professor – have suffered from at various points. Though technically proficient, they seem to be just going through the motions in rapping, not really engaging the listener. The on record equivalent of not making eye contact. Maybe there’s something about spending eighteen hours a day basking in the LCD glow of a two inch MPC screen that leaves one sort of distant. [2] Sometimes this distance works to Dilla’s advantage, the most interesting tracks have a foggy, claustrophobic party vibe that is amplified by this seeming indifference. “We F’d Up” is a half drunk wall fly take on club hopping, even repurposing Kell’s “Fiesta” for the hook and “Fight Club” finds Wajeed emulating (predicting?) Dilla’s more electronic sound on some Robert Davis vs. Juan Atkins fist fight shit. I think I’d like to live in a world where this sort of shit actually blows up clubs. Though not if it sounds like “Trucks”, the ill advised Gary Numan homage that occupies similar territory but falls flat. The remainder of the record is sort of all over the place, bearing some superficial similarities to the equally hit or miss follow up Welcome To Detroit. The fan favorite single “Fuck The Police” reappears here and “Creepin’ On You” is like “Oochie Wally” for the giant headphone sect (and I mean that in the best way possible), but a lot of this is incredibly dated, 5 years might as well be 100 in rap time [3] (chimpunk soul? did he really just say “bling bling”?) Elsewhere it just seems like a Busta Rhymes record stripped of it’s charisma. It also feels a little unfinished, which is a problem you frequently encounter when listening to unfinishe

[1] It’d be like if Pimp C cut an album with a bunch of Jazze Pha & Cory Mo beats… oh, wait.
[2] Trust me, I can empathize.
[3] Did you hear the way Dilla flipped time on that one beat tape? Chopped it up, son. At first I didn’t even recognize it then I went back and looked at the clock again like “oh shit… Dilla flipped that time shit. I think he got the snare from space too.”

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  • http://www.rockthedub.com khal

    i actually liked it. dilla sounded better on the mic here than on some of his other project, in my book anyways.

    and yeah he def said bling bling. back to the future.

  • http://haterplayer.blogspot.com/ fakerthanfake

    dilla rapping on anything but dilla? not a good look.


    you know it really is just you all did it! you feel me! its my life! the government just lets it happen! you feel me! its not a big deal! at this point! its done because the people above all of you wanted to make sure it happened! i just want to clear my name in regards to all the money! try to recover my family! and just let be known the injustice! make sure Im not held accountable for trillions of dollars going into all the wrong peoples hands and make sure know terrorist bullshit can be blamed on me later down the road! cause the way i see it! thats the ultimate plan! let this money be stolen let some idiots try to tie it to some terrorist bullshit and bam you got an excuse to do it without even wondering! nobody cares that bread in the hood will soon be 4$ a loaf or eggs 7$ a carton you know they just thinking about themselves! everyone is! its cool! I want to live comfortably as well! first way that will happen is by ending torture next way is by leaving this whole hiphop world all of you people behind! I aint gotta go into church but just away from this! it just hasnt been good to me! with the money and the woman and all the problems! no matter how much you love you have to learn to let go! for real for real! dilla did it! thats cool! same girl! thats cool! goodluck and take care! for real for real! and have the time of your life! im just not even concerned no more! IF YOU KNOW THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD KNOW IF YOU KNOW ABOUT THEM TAKING THE MONEY THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS IF YOU KNOW ABOUT ALL THE BULLSHIT WITH THE HOES AND ALL THESE NIGGAS THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS! YOU UNDERSTAND! DONT THINK YOU DONT HAVE GREAT KNOWLEDGE THEY DONT KNOW ABOUT! THEY KNOW WHO MY KIDS ARE THEY KNOW WHO GOT MOLESTED! THEY KNOW ALL THE DUMB SHIT! ITS NOT EVEN A QUESTION AS TO WHAT IS GOING ON! TRUST ME MY NIGGA! AT ALL! ALL THAT YOU KNOW THEY KNOW! THEY JUST CHOOSE TO LET IT HAPPEN! EVERYONE DOES! ITS EASIER TO BURY ONE PERSON THAT TO BURY THOUSANDS OF THE RIGHT PEOPLE! YOU UNDERSTAND! ITS EASIER! SO MUCH MONEY SO MUCH CORRUPTION ITS NO WAY TO TELL WHO IS GETTING WHAT WHO TO TRUST WHAT IS GOING ON! JUST UNDERSTAND YOU ALL SOLD OUT A BLACK MAN THAT WOULD HAVE LOOKED OUT FOR HIS PEOPLE FOR CRUMBS LIKE I BEEN SAYING CAUSE IN THE END THEY WILL ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO TAKE IT BACK! AND IT WAS ALL MINE FROM THE START! THATS THE SAD PART! YOU UNDERSTAND! BUT YOU GOT YOUR CRUMBS! ITS JUST SO MUCH JEALOUSY AND ENVY! AND SO MUCH PLOTTING THAT BY THE TIME I CAUGHT ON 50 JAYZ THESE WOMAN THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO CONTINUE AND KEEP GOING SO THAT THEY COULD NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT THEY HAD ALREADY DID! YOU UNDERSTAND! IM GLAD YOU KNOW AND YOUR TRYING TO LET ME KNOW! BUT UNDERSTAND THIS! IF YOU KNOW! THEY KNOW! YOU UNDRESTAND! AND THATS JUST WHAT IT IS! YOU SAY THE SAME GIRL! BUT YOU DONT UNDERSTAND IS THEY ARE THE SAME GIRL BECAUSE WHOEVER I WAS FUCKING WITH THEY WERE FUCKING WITH AT THE SAME TIME ON PURPOSE TO GET TO THE NEXT STEP OF THE CONSPIRACY ITS NOT BY ACCIDENT SAME GIRL THIS THAT THE THIRD! THEY DID THAT ON PURPOSE! I AM THE ONE! THEY ARE THE TWO’S DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT! IF ONE DOESNT KNOW WHATS GOING ON BUT TWO DOES HE HAS AN ADVANTAGE! THIS WHOLE TIME I JUST BEEN LIVING MY LIFE! NOT CONCERNING THE NONSENSE YOU UNDERSTAND! I ALWAYS FELT LIKE THERE WAS SOMEBULLSHIT GOING ON! ESPECIALLY THE LAST 10 YEARS! BUT WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT! I WAS WORTH A GAZILLION DOLLASRS AND EVERYONE WAS PLOTTING! ITS NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO! JUST KNOW THEY KNOW DUNN DUNN! THEY KNOW IT ALL! TRUST ME! ITS JUST SO MANY CONSPIRACIES! ITS NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO! I WILL TRY! BUT THEY ARE SO PROUD OF YOU ALL OF PARTICIPATING AND HELPING! I TELL YOU THAT!

  • jlee

    just read “behold a pale horse”. father owns stock in black helicopter manufacturing companies.

  • Deez Nutz

    Who is J-Dilla again? He couldn’t hold Dr. Dre or Timberlands cup at a sperm bank…let that garbage azz produce rest in peace

  • http://www.xxlmag.com jackpot

    Good post, sir. And to your previous question. Bol recently asked whether old pussy was better than new pussy and Dallas documented his recent trip to Montreal. So yeah, we can talk about hoops. And pretty much anything else you wanna talk about.

  • daz_oc

    You are the dumbest mu’fucka ever……dilla is the truth. Dilla gets waaaaay more praise then tim from the real hip hop crowd. not to say that tim is wack cuz he do got some hot shit but come on son

    • Trey Stone

      Timbo’s leftovers > Dilla

      but i’m just a deranged hater

  • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com sweeneykovar

    you have bad taste in music.

    first off, kanye of greater talent than dilla? after the man admitted to directly stealing drums from dilla? HA!

    trucks is not dope????? have you heard this in a club setting?

    no one’s home is the shit. drive me wild is retarded. Dilla killed the blueprint sound w/ Diary, we all know by know Diamonds is the shit, Remember is classic pete (the remix>OG),

    how is it that this album is from 2003 yet shits on 99.9% of albums released since then. tell me i’m exaggerating, blah blah blah, then go talk about how Weezy and TI are changing the game.

    • http://www.cocaineblunts.com/ noz

      It seems like my taste in music is at least greater than your reading comprehension level.

      • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com andres

        what did i fuck up on? i’ll own up to a warranted L …

      • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com andres

        “chimpunk soul? did he really just say “bling bling””

        - first off it was 5 years ago, and seconldy you mean to tell me none of those two things are still present in our music?

        - Welcome 2 Detroit came 2 years before this, it wasn’t the follow up. (maybe you just worded that ambigously)

        - no charisma? ….

        maybe this shit just isn’t for you…

  • http://www.cocaineblunts.com/ noz

    The phrase “greater or equal” generally implies that one subject is either greater or equal than the other. Sometimes, in my writing I go to great measures to make statements of this nature as ambiguous as possible in the hopes that it will prevent hissy fits from nitpicking groupies like yourself. It never works.

    Admittedly, I did mix up release dates on W2D, but like I said, I’ve been on some reverse head nod ish ever since Dilla took time and flipped it, son! And I’m not talking Morris Day, either. Though he probably flipped that too. You heard his one unreleased beat tape? It’s got beats on it, yo.

    • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com sweeneykovar

      well this nitpicking groupie thinks that any respectable hip hop head (im an elitist btw, waiting on you to call that one out) can put two men on equal terms when one has repeatedly borrowed out of the play book of the other

      also, a head such as myself who has seen the tracks you describe as flat and outdated make crowds go crazy on multiple occasions in the club (gasp, yes i do leave my CPU), will naturally disagree with the claims you make on those songs since the historical core of hip hop is in the synergy created between music and the audience.

      i’m also waiting on you to illuminate me on the faults of my reading comprehension.

      • Trey Stone

        people who’re influenced by another style can’t be better than the originator?

        • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com sweeneykovar

          nope, that is absolutely not the case. being influenced by someone does not guarantee you to be better or worse than them, but if people can’t distinguish the difference in skill and musicality between Dilla and Ye……

          this mufucker (jd) had the entire industry, while ignoring him, take pages straight out of his book.

          honestly, that is how i see it.

  • http://www.cocaineblunts.com/ noz

    And IIRC, “Bling Bling” (the phrase, not the solar phenomenon) was already outdated in ’03.

  • johnny rebel

    dilla the greatest.

  • Tray

    I’d say that Kanye is, or at least was, better than Dilla. Dilla had some classics – Stakes Is High, for one – but aside from Common he hardly worked with anyone important, and when he did the results were underwhelming – remember his contributions to Fishscale? I also think Donuts is horribly overrated. What was so great about it? He hardly flipped a thing, the thing might as well be called “J Dilla’s 30 Favorite Motown Records (With Occasional Knob-Twiddling From Dilla Himself!).

    • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com sweeneykovar

      fuck it, since i’m here…

      on donuts, please tell me how the following are “hardly flipped”:

      Geek Down
      Anti American Graffitti
      Time: Donut of the Heart
      One Eleven

  • padraig

    ^^most of the time I ignore the nonsense that Tray posts but that is just too much. the only “important” artist dilla worked with was Common? dude worked with atcq, the pharcyde, the roots etc. – but I guess none of those artists are important by Tray’s standards. also, “Dilla’s 30 Favorite Motown Records”? tray doesn’t know wtf he’s talking about – dude’s fingers were just as dusty as Pete Rock’s – he flipped tons of jazz (most notably Herbie Hancock), plus obscure lesbian folk music (that joint on the Jaylib album where they couldn’t get the sample cleared for the reissue) & all manner of other weird records. not to mention all the Detroit techno influenced keyboard-heavy stuff.

    don’t get it twisted either – I’m not a Dilla stan, he wasn’t the God of Beats & his death definitely elevated him to mythical status. I’m also not trying to get into some stupid Kanye vs. Dilla debate. it’s just makes me angry when people like Tray feel the need to put their overwhelming ignorance on display.

    • Tray

      Oh wow, he samped some lesbian folk music. That changes everything. I don’t mean to impugn his crate-digging exploits. I’m sure his mediocre ear for samples wasn’t limited to Motown stuff. Happy? As for the people he worked with, he worked with Tribe when they were no longer good. Something which you could argue he contributed to. And The Roots aren’t important rappers, just important musicians. It’s like saying you did some work on Dr. Dre’s album. And Donuts… whatever. Look at Stop. It’s a 1:47 snippet of a Dionne Warwick song, to which he attached a sample of Jadakiss cackling for some unknown reason. And that was probably the highlight of the album. I’m tired of dead people being overrated. You pick up any album that Dilla did a track on, 9 times out of 10 he doesn’t have the best track or anywhere close. That’s true of Fishscale, true of The Grind Date, true of Finding Forever, true of Game Theory, true of The Disaster Strikes, true of pretty much every other album Busta made, true of Things Fall Apart, and so on ad infinitum.

      • real head

        how does it feel to be stupid?

      • padraig

        ^going by this comment I think we disagree at a level so fundamental that arguing about it further is worthless (well, even more worthless than arguing about things on the Internet generally is). I think the acclaim Dilla’s gotten from other producers kinda speaks for itself but you’re welcome to continue thinking he’s just overrated. just don’t try to that opinion up with outlandish nonsense like “J Dilla’s 30 Favorite Motown Records” and that his work wasn’t “important”.

        on a more positive note hopefully Kanye will put something riding the jock of some new French house duo soon so you can get your fix.

        • Tray

          I never said Kanye was still good (note the ‘was’ in my original post). LR was hot trash outside of 4-5 songs, and Graduation’s a lot worse. But before he became a billionaire he was something. Although, I think Dilla’s a lot more… how do I put it? Subtle, perhaps, and profound. Kanye made a ton of great beats, but a lot of them were musically kind of comfort food. Not that I mind that; I’m someone who defends Mariah Carey. But from a purist’s standpoint, I think you can make a case for Dilla.. that said, he’s not like a Premo (for me), where you buy an album he’s on and skip to his track because you know it’ll be the best thing on the album. And to be clear, I’m referring to the mid-to-late 90s Premo, not formulaic Premo.

  • http://www.cocaineblunts.com/ noz

    Can we please get a side by side hangnail comparison of Dilla, Pete & Kanye as to determine who’s fingers are in fact the dustiest?

    I know you got the jpgs, sweeny.

    • http://www.sweeneykovar.wordpress.com sweeneykovar

      saving them for the mag version of my blog.

      but on a very serious note,

      no one thinks this is fucked up? no one thinks that his mother, sick herself, getting a call about her sons last unfinished piece of music, music was his life duh, and that piece of music being highly devalued in the marketplace (we’ll see when that shit is released) by the time of its release, none of that shit fucks anyone else up?

      damn, i must be a stan then i guess…

  • datrouf

    one thing about dj/rappers… they ride the beat a lot better… when you know when to accentuate and pause on your own beats, it’s good. RZA’s lyrics and delivery are strange no doubt, but dude can ride his own beats like no other clansman…

  • Watching Cliffhanger…

    Noz could review an extra value meal and it would be thoroughly entertaining. Even if I didn’t agree with his choice number on the menu, he would have the illest footnotes regardless!

    Fighting over dilla tracks is so last year folks, pick up a sign and go protest something relevant- better yet start a debate team to seriously craft your arts of talking absolute shite. Opinions are like…..? Well I know I’ve got one.

  • bumpyjohnson

    Was Pimpalation any good? I watched the DVD but never got around to listening to the entire album.

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