Friday, March 2, 2012

Who Doesn't Like Donuts?

And I'm not talking about the kind of donuts that you, me and Homer Simpson all adore. I'm speaking here, sincerely and a bit reverently, of the last album by Detroit hip-hop artist and producer J Dilla, released on February 7, 2006, his 32nd birthday, and only three days before his untimely death of the incurable blood disease TTP.

Donuts was received with nearly universal critical acclaim, a status confirmed by fans. Online music service Rhapsody ranked the album #3 on its "Hip-Hop’s Best Albums of the Decade" list. The album ranked number 9 on's Essential 50 countdown in April 2009.

The secret to Donuts' success to me is it's unconventional presentation. Donuts consists of 31 naked, highly-creative tracks, none of which comprises or pretends to be a full song. The tracks are mostly long samples--the "beat," purely presented--mostly as loops. Indeed, the longest of the 31 tracks is "Workinonit" at less than 3 minutes (2:57). The first track, "Donuts, " an ontro not an intro, is only 11 seconds.

The significance of the album is two-fold: first, the work itself is a meditative introspective into the mind of a rare musical genius, rooted in the soul music that dominated Dilla’s childhood in Detroit. Secondly, the tracks on Donuts have been used hundreds of times since by almost too many well know artists in multiple genre, including hip-hop, rap, R&B and niches. Donuts, in fact, is thought to have an almost subliminally-effective influence on much of hip-hop and rap since.

Long Live J Dilla

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