James Dewitt Yancey, better known by his alias, J Dilla, was a Detroit based hip-hop artist. He quickly became one of the most influential producers in the genre. He had a unique style of sampling and organically creating rhythms on his drum machines. In 2002 he was diagnosed with lupus, and it gave him the impetus to begin working on his third and final studio album, Donuts. This instrumental album was produced during extended visits to the hospital. It is a collection of short beats that loops indefinitely into itself. The second to last song, Last Donut of The Night, acts as a send-off to the life of a man who gave so much to the genre. It also serves as an introduction to the album if you listen backward.
The song only has a few vocal samples during its 1:40 runtime. The sample of Gene Chandler’s introduction at the Regal Theatre becomes a reflection from Dilla. “Ladies and gentleman, it’s that time at the Regal / young man went out and made a name for himself / he’s been on every record-breaking show in the Regal Theatre for the past 2 years/ ladies and gentleman, the star”. After this introduction, a snippet of another song from Al Goodman where the line “all I give to you” is sung. This was likely chosen to convey the emotion Dilla felt for this album while producing it on his deathbed. The instrumental itself is a reflective loop, with cinematic strings delivering the melody backed by a strummed guitar
J Dilla died 3 days after the release of the album in February of 2006. His legacy lives on and is seen in contemporary producers like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Flying Lotus, and The Alchemist.
Photo by Fuse Box Radio