Dillatronic by J Dilla

J Dilla’s death in 2006 from a rare blood disease could readily be argued as one of music’s greatest losses in the past 20 years. While many choose to look at the tragedies of Cobain, Buckley, Tupac, and Biggy, as more significant due to their influences on pop culture, Dilla’s significance as an innovator in hip hop production is one which will surely be difficult to surpass, in any genre.

Dilla is renowned for having produced a myriad of tracks and beats before his untimely death at 32, so the new release Dillatronic is by no means the first collection to be put out posthumously, but this selection of 41 rare instrumentals does uncover a few gems. Don’t expect to be blown away by any particular song; most of the tracks are short and there is certainly an unfinished feel (a word sadly associated with Dilla himself) so if you’re just getting into him you’d be much better off diving into older records like Donuts and The Shining. But for real hip hop and Dilla heads, any of his unheard beats are a blessing, so you won’t be dissapointed.

The production is generally pretty minimalist; stuttering beats and sparse, deep bass lay the foundation for penetrating melodic lines and occasional samples. Dillatronic “11” and “18” (they are all labelled in this way) are good examples of this, I think you can even pick out a Jay Z sample in the latter, however others could be truly developed with a verse or two. “22” bounces along with a quality funk bassline which some of Dilla’s old collaborators (think Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, or any decent rapper in the late 90s/ early 2000s) would certainly be at home on.

The foundation is there, these are fledgling tracks that could be made really incredible, which makes Dilla’s absence all the more frustrating and gives the listener almost a sense of melancholy, even whilst nodding along to his beats.


Harry Stott

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