Vinyl Vlog 377

Vinyl Vlog 377

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Thursday, 28 March 2019
COLUMN

J Dilla
Donuts

(photo: turntablelab.com)

I never saw the appeal in rap music after the 90s. It just seemed too bombastic and show-offy and trying to be bigger than itself to really connect with me. More style than substance, you know? That is, until I got turned onto the more indie stuff like Aesop Rock, El-P, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. THAT’S where it was at for me. The songs just felt more grounded. More than all that rap singing about Bentleys, bitches, and benjamins. Give me a break.

I’m not a rap expert by any means but my ventures into indie rap would (of course) eventually bring me to MF Doom. Singing his praises and pretending I was cool to my friends was frequently reciprocated with, “Well, you should get into J Dilla.” I was disappointed both that my friends were not getting that I wanted to talk about MF Doom, and in myself that I had been missing out on J Dilla.

It took me a couple listens of Donuts to truly appreciate its sensibilities. Donuts is essentially a collection of music tracks and samples combining elements of soul, r&b, rap, Motown, and just about everything under the sun. Even the modern rap tracks find their way into Donuts though in a largely reinvented way. I don’t feel bad that it took me a while to understand Donuts because lots of people didn’t when it came out. Maybe because it was ahead of its time, or maybe because we were all being distracted by garbage music that was being released in the mid aughts. Even Pitchfork backpedalled, giving the album a 7.9 upon its release but retrospectively giving it a 10 six years later when they rereviewed it. Just let that sink in: people thought it was good when it came out, but retrospectively consider it a perfect album. Surely its’ gotten the respect it deserves from the likes of mainstream rappers that aren’t fit to be in the same sonic radius as this album and that counts for a lot. To me it just means that our modern musical “geniuses” can recognize good music but they just aren’t skilled enough to make it themselves.

Look, there’s nothing new we can write here about Donuts because this album has been analyzed to death. What we DO need to reiterate is that this album is just cool as hell. Its tracks are short and sweet and are constantly changing in tone, keeping things interested and offering layers of depth. And there are almost no vocals in this album. Amazing, right? And for all the bombastic rap music out these days, Donuts stands out for being subtle and actually full of substance. There’s going to be something new to discover every time you listen to the tracks and that’s a testament to the real value of J Dilla’s craft. An essential record in every way.

Get it from Stones Throw.

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