Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Listening to Jay Love Japan I am reminded why Dilla is truly one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time (and a personal favorite). It's not that this album is particularly fantastic, it's actually fairly run-of-the-mill for Dilla. However, unlike the gritty, synth-heavy Ruff Draft (that served as much to feature Dilla as a rapper as it did for him as a producer) or Dilla's masterpiece Donuts, with its constantly changing rhythms and samples that only the most advanced-flow rappers could possibly handle; on Jay Love Japan Dilla delivers to us some quality, seriously solid, almost classic-sounding instrumentals.
Why is that a big deal? Because what makes J Dilla such a strong, influential producer lies in his ability to develop complex, interesting instrumentals that are completely conducive to rapping. Dilla's best works lie not in his solo albums but in his production for emcees like De La Soul, Common, Tribe Called Quest, and Busta Rhymes. Listening to Jay Love Japan's instrumentals, one feels compelled to freestyle or write a verse in order to fill the vocal void that remains present in all tracks exclluding "Say It" and "First Time." If a producer's tracks make you want to rap...well that's about as good as you can get.
I won't be doing any categories other than an overall album rating this review since most of my categories are designed for an album with an emcee.
Overall Album: 8
Dilla sure as hell doesn't sound like many producers out there, and there's innovation in that. Thing is, the work on Jay Love Japan is par for the course for Dilla. The only track that seems to jump out at all is "Can't You See" with a close second being "In the Streets". Fans of Dilla will absolutely adore this album, but folks in general may be left scratching their heads a bit, wondering what all the fuss is about. The album length is also a serious issue given that it has been marketed as a full album yet only contains 9 tracks that give a grand total of 20 minutes worth of listening time. Solid drums, interesting sampling, complex mixes...all the hallmarks of a good Dilla album are present. But like J Dilla's life, all too often his own songs and albums seem to cut off prematurely, leaving the listener alone and wondering where it might have gone had it continued developing. I personally hope there is more posthumous Dilla going to be released; industry producers could really learn a lot about sonic unity and discipline from this guy. RIP Dilla; your shit is still good and you are dearly missed.