DOUNUTS: NEVER STALE

by Rachel Brame –

As February came and went this year I celebrated the 10th anniversary of J Dilla’s sweet but final masterpiece Donuts by keeping it on heavy rotation. This album is a confection which is best enjoyed while buried in headphones; all the better to bask in the glorious production and eclectic array of genres which interweave together. It’s an eyes closed ears open sonic exploration through vinyl gold which delightfully samples a wide spectrum of decades and genres blending soul, rock, hip-hop, and funk into one delicious package. It’s great because he breaks out unconventional soundbites from the Beastie Boys, Frank Zappa, and random vintage commercial advertisements all while intermingling it with the likes of Shuggie Otis, Motherload, and a plethora of other R&B groups from the 60’s and 70’s. What does Donuts mean to me? It’s become a beloved staple soundtrack for the last decade of my life.

Released by Stones Throw records, this album flies by with thirty-one tracks clocking in at a mere 37 ½ minutes long. Donuts in its entirety is introspective, chill, yet upbeat throughout. Listening to “Waves” you can feel the ocean pulse through his beats.  “Light My Fire”, “Anti-American Graffiti”, “Gobstopper”, and “U-Love” in particular offer up addictive and infectious hooks. “Time” is far and away my favorite track; The Roots ode to JD “Can’t Stop This” on Game Theory brought this song to my attention in the first place. “Last Donut Of The Night” rounds out the end of the album on track 30 with a feel of being Dilla’s true swan song.  Donuts final track aptly titled “Welcome To The Show” is essentially a reprise of the album’s opening track.

Originally born James DeWitt Yancy, he was an artist’s artist, a mad scientist of sound production in his day. He’s worked with other hip-hop greats such as Common, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, Pharcyde, and Madlib. JD’s medical complications from Lupus took him too soon from the world. It continues to blow my mind that this album was composed at a time of JD’s seriously failing health, squeezing in productive moments in between hospital stays and dialysis treatments. He died three days after Donuts release in 2006 at the age of 32. He shall be missed but the art lives on.

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