As another installment of the 33 1/3 music book series Toronto freelance culture writer Jordan Ferguson delves in the mysterious classic instrumental album Donuts by legendary music producer J Dilla. Not only is this book a great peek inside of Donuts and the making of the album, it is also a rare glimpse inside the life of one of Hip Hop’s most mythical figures. This aspect is only approached through the angle of trying to uncover the hidden gems left in the famed producer’s last work, with the intent to find why these gems were left and what correlation it has to J Dilla consciously knowing his time on earth is ending soon. Layered with ancient Greek mythology and Western philosophy Ferguson gives his opinion on the more layered aspects to Donuts and how they relate to what the man producing, what he most likely knew was his last work, was going through. The author successfully convinces the reader that Donuts is a spiritual journey more than an instrumental album, and even unearths some almost eerie ‘hidden gems’ found in the album. From sample choices in another language that when translated deal with death, that Dilla more than likely would not have even known what they were saying, to the 5 stages of mourning or acknowledgement of impeding death located throughout the entire album. This book does give a short but detailed history of Dilla but with the producer’s cult like following most serious “Dilla Heads” will immediately recognize all the source material. No knew interviews or quotes are presented in this book, and most “Heads” probably have the original interviews saved in the favorites online as all of the source material for this book can be found on the internet. But this book’s purpose isn’t to give the untold story of Dilla but to ask the philosophical questions we all wonder in our heads that surround this mysterious final project. Ferguson is sure to make it known that this is just his opinion on a person and their art, and perhaps there is no true meaning embedded in this particular piece of art, but after re-listening to Donuts after this book, I am pretty sure there may be more gems than we think we know in this album.
Archives for July 2014
Stones Throw Records is one of the most successful and acclaimed independent music labels of our time. They also harbor some of Hip Hop’s most mysterious, illusive, and enigmatic figures, so a glimpse inside of this labels life is more than welcomed. ‘Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton’ hosts an array of musical figures, many of whom stop by just to sing the label praises, the guests range from Common and Questlove to Tyler, The Creator, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. With most documentaries they start at the beginning and explain how Peanut Butter Wolf, the founder of Stones Throw Records, basically started the label after having some unpleasant bouts with labels and just wanted a place to release the music he was making with childhood friend and MC Charizma. Without giving too much away it eventually reaches the time period most Stones Throw fans know and delves into the likes of Madlib, DOOM, and J Dilla. Keeping these mysterious figures mysterious the documentary doesn’t really release much never before seen footage of these illusive figures, they even borrow footage from DOOM’s Red Bull Music Academy interview instead of showing footage they more than likely have of these figures behind the scenes. They perfectly document the ups and downs of the label the change in musical style and taste and also the redemption of the label while giving an optimistic look toward the unknown future for this collective. The 2 disc special edition ‘box set’ comes with a soundtrack which features a few unreleased Madlib beats, but if you are truly a fan of Stones Throw then you most likely already have every song on the soundtrack in a few different formats (mp3, cd, 45, and probably cassette too knowing their output). One can only look forward to what goodies will be released once this DVD gets a re-issue, Stones Throw never let’s their fans and listeners down with product and this documentary is just another notch under their belt of quality work.