Bloomsbury’s seminal 33 1/3 book series releases J Dilla’s Donuts By Jordan Ferguson

Many of us in the world of hip hop recognize a certain lineage of beat making that includes Marley Marl, Premier, Pete Rock and J Dilla as the forefathers. The debate could go on for days if the question was to arise about who’s the best but one thing seems to be constant, certainly in recent years, Dilla has become the beat making GOD! Even your favorite producer might tell you so.

In Dilla’s last days one of hip hop’s most pivotal projects was born, “Donuts.” Donuts has been the topic of many many forum discussions, pool hall and barbershop debates with it’s underlying messages to Dilla’s loved ones and almost avant garde style of beats. But one thing remains true, hate it or love it, Donuts is a work of art.

In the book Donuts, By Jordan Ferguson, Dilla’s formative work on Donuts is explored in detail. Ferguson digs into Donuts and scribes somewhat of a long form liner notes, but with in depth insight and stories from those closest to the project. Not only does Ferguson do a rather thorough analysis of the project he seems to follow Dilla on his journey to becoming the larger than life figure in hip hop that would only be realized after his death.

One such passage is where Dilla rejected and simultaneously embraced the notion of Slum Village having been categorized as a native tongues sort of act…

people automatically put us in that [Tribe] category. That was actually a category that we didn’t actually wanna be in. I thought the music came off like that, but we didn’t realize that shit then. I mean, you gotta listen to the lyrics of the shit, niggas was talking about getting head from bitches. It was like a nigga from Native Tongues never woulda said that shit. I don’t know how to say it, it’s kinda fucked up because the audience we were trying to give to were actually people we hung around. Me, myself, I hung around regular ass Detroit cats. Not the backpack shit that people kept putting out there like that. I mean, I ain’t never carried no goddamn backpack, but like I said, I understand to a certain extent.

All in all, Jordan Ferguson has done an incredible job with the J Dilla’s Donuts edition of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 book series. If you follow the bboytechreport bookclub, you’ll not be disappointed with J Dilla’s Donuts By Jordan Ferguson due out on April 24, 2014 (PB 9781623561833) for $14.95.

Press Release has this to say

From a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James “J Dilla” Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beat makers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as “hip hop music” is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeous and heartbreaking the next. The samples and melodies tell the story of a man coming to terms with his declining health, a final love letter to the family and friends he was leaving behind. As a prolific producer with a voracious appetite for the history and mechanics of the music he loved, J Dilla knew the records that went into constructing Donuts inside and out. He could have taken them all and made a much different, more accessible album. If the widely accepted view is that his final work is a record about dying, the question becomes why did he make this record about dying?

Drawing from philosophy, critical theory and musicology, as well as Dilla’s own musical catalogue, Jordan Ferguson shows that the contradictory, irascible and confrontational music found on Donuts is as much a result of an artist’s declining health as it is an example of what scholars call “late style,” placing the album in a musical tradition that stretches back centuries.

Excerpt from J Dilla’s Donuts By Jordan Ferguson

Everyone at Stones Throw agreed the music that would end up on Donuts was exceptional (lank remembered thinking it was the best beat tape he’d ever heard), but Egon had some reservations; he was more interested in pursuing a follow-up to Champion Sound.

“If it wasn’t for Chris, Donuts wouldn’t [have] happened because Chris said, ‘We’re making an instrumental record around Jay Dee because that’s all he can do.’ I was the first person to say ‘That’s ridiculous, you need to get the next Jaylib record done because the Jaylib record is the one that made him healthy during his first bout with lupus.’ And Chris is like, ‘No, we’re going to do an instrumental record because it’s all he can do, that’s what we’re going to do.’ Period, full stop.”

There was one problem: Because it had originated as a “beat tape,” short sketches of the kind producers would use to shop their work to rappers and labels, the CD Dilla had given them was only 22 minutes long.

About the Author

Jordan Ferguson writes about hip-hop and culture at Originally from Windsor, Ontario, he lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

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