Donuts Reissue Resurrects Hip Hop Classic
In 2006 J Dilla released Donuts, a staple of underground hip hop and a crowning achievement of west coast left-field label Stones Throw. This week it’s been reissued as a box set of eight 7-inch 45’s, in other words it’s literally a box of donuts.
Aside from the collector’s item status this esoteric format will likely achieve spreading this release across those 45’s is interesting as J Dilla’s musical structure is concise, with the musical vocabulary of a capable poet. Each sound comes across as being agonized over.
There’s no build-up, each track is compelling from the first second, and there’s no fade - the tracks simply end when they do.
The cuts play like the vinyl section of a thrift-store that’s not been explored since the 70’s, with the gems still there sitting patiently inside jackets waiting to be chopped and sculpted into soundscapes that sound like random stops on some otherworldly FM dial.
To say his work is influential is an understatement, especially for other crate-digging hip-hop producers. One of the included bonus tracks on this reissue features the sinister duo of Ghostface Killa and DOOM, whose vocals get juggled by J Dilla’s beats in a crowd-pleaser of a sideshow.
J Dilla spent a year working on Donuts in a hospital bed as he was being treated for a rare blood disease called Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP. He sadly died three days after the album’s release. And this fact lends a lot to the legend of Donuts, as the circular shape of the pastry that it’s named for shows up throughout. It’s in the loops of the samples, and the groves of the vinyl. Indeed the first track is titled “Outro” implying that you’re beginning at some point on a loop, circumventing conclusion.