J Dilla: The Shining, Donuts

J Dilla
The Shining
Stones Throw


When you drop the laser on The Shining, a crazed voice grabs the air by the lapels, spraying spit. "'Dis shit is a pffFUCKIN' emergency! E-vac-u-ate the pffFUCKIN' premises—BITCH!" If FEMA had people with Busta Rhymes's stentorian powers, I'd sleep easy.

On his pre-Big Bang street mix New Crack City, Busta's similarly cranked about "throwin' away fuckin' albums in the street" while others struggle with their little bitch-ass, stinkin'-ass, little 16-bar verses and shit. But he's got nothing on J Dilla, who threw away three pffFUCKIN' albums before he passed away on February 10 from cardiac arrest brought on by thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (a rare blood disease) and lupus.

The Detroit producer (born James Dewitt Yancey; a.k.a. Jay Dee) made his name in Slum Village, who opened A Tribe Called Quest's final tour. His production teams, the Ummah and Soulquarians, tweaked tracks for Erykah Badu, ATCQ, and Common, and J himself worked with the Roots, Janet Jackson, Macy Gray, the Pharcyde, De La Soul, and Madlib. The Shining boasts cameos by Common, Busta, and Madlib, alongside rising stars like Pharoahe Monch and J. Rocc.

The Shining's vibe is rambunctious, the sounds wild (what'd he use as a kick drum on the opening track—a beehive?), but the incessant clips from the Kubrick movie get old quick (compared with scary-sample-themed hip-hop albums like Endtroducing, Geto Boys, etc.). Donuts, on the other hand, is how J should be remembered. Finished in a hospital bed and released on his 32nd birthday, three days before his death, it's a hypnotic cyber-coptic gush of funky mayhem, where if you don't like a track, you never have to wait more than 90 seconds for the next one.

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