The hip-hop producer James Yancey, who recently passed away from lupus at age 32, was the master of what Q-Tip once called “the trade of that old boom bap”: the heavy thwack of a bass drum, quickly followed by the sharp snap of a snare. It’s an art of impact, and nobody’s bass boomed lower, nor snares cracked harder, than Dilla’s. He sat behind the boards for a generation of boho rappers and neo-soul singers—Common (“The Light”), Erykah Badu (“Didn’t Cha Know”), and Tip himself (“Breathe and Stop”)—and released a slew of instrumental solo projects. The quality control on the latter varied; a looped beat and a couple of samples can grow tedious quickly. On Donuts, his latest (though probably not last) and best album, Dilla solved that problem by cutting most of the 31 songs before the two-minute mark. Absent the meandering grooves that were usually his trademark, it sounds like the Kanye West discography thrown into a blender—hundreds of chewy and gooey morsels of soul vocals, to be gobbled in rapid succession. An appropriate, if untimely, end to a career spent keeping warmth and a sense of the organic in hip-hop.
J Dilla Stones Throw