J Dilla: Ruff Draft

J Dilla
Ruff Draft
Stones Throw Records

Without pretension, and at the risk of alienating heads old enough to remember Marley Marl, J Dilla can truly be called a pioneering rap producer. No one else had that sound, with drums that spoke of history and funk and soul, bass lines both warm and oh-so-cool, and a totality of vibes that reflected the increasingly experimental artistic visions of like-minded cohorts such as D'Angelo and De La Soul.

This Ruff Draft is a reprise of the Detroit native's (virtually) hidden Rubber Soul, a bridge from the hypnotic cool-outs of the Tribe/Slum Village '90s to the amazing sonic (s)platters of sheer hip-hop joy that made up last year's posthumous Donuts. Here we find more than a few glimpses of the latter's breakthrough full sounds. Dilla the MC stays too grimy for the native tonguer's taste, spitting like a hungry cat in the basement over an old cassette loop about biters, blunts, and dough, but the sheer musical joy found on such tracks as "Crushin' (Yeeeeaah!)" and "The $" will satiate even the most prudent anti-gangsta bohos.

The good people at Stones Throw provide alternate tracks and a second disc full of instrumentals (a priceless addition for rappers too cheap to pay for beats), but take the title at face value—the product is hip hop like gutted Swishers and untied Timbos, greasy chicken and five days in the same clothes.