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This was originally a post that was meant to share this wonderful Donuts tribute by Stray Phrases but it ended up turning into a bit of a rant. I’ve spent too much time writing it now, so I’d feel bad deleting all of it. I’ll just hide it in the spoiler! I stand by the point I’m trying to make anyway, if you’d like to skip it feel free to. –
This is an old tribute but I thought I would share it here after talking to my brother about Donuts earlier. We were talking about all of the rappers who have done their tributes and songs over beats from Donuts. A lot of this is from more underground/unknown folks who I argue are just trying to ride that Dilla train to popularity, but there are also more respected folks like Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, DOOM, and others who have done this as well. While I’m not trying to say that these raps can’t be good over Donut beats (a lot of them are great!), I still personally feel like it is sacrilege in a sense. Considering the circumstances that existed during the recording of this album, I feel it is just far too personal of a record to rap over. I have seen so many videos on Youtube with folks carelessly rapping over a Donut beat and throwing a “RIP DILLA” at the end of it and calling it a day. While sometimes the intention may be genuine, I can’t help but to be offended to a certain degree after seeing this happen. There are so many beats that someone can rap over, even those of J Dilla’s that I wouldn’t have this problem with. For myself personally though, Donuts is an incredible experience that should not be clouded by any kind of distractions. To this day I still get goosebumps after listening to Donuts (Intro) and realizing that he was recording this on his deathbed, knowing he would soon pass on. Thinking about someone rapping over a beat with this kind of history attached to it makes me sad, especially if the emcee knows the story behind the original beat…
Enough of this rant though (sorry!), here is what I consider a proper treatment of Donuts. During last year’s Dilla month the jazz trio Stray Phrases played a set for some small NYC bar that consisted of a cover of Donuts in its entirety. From start to finish they nailed every single aspect of this album in their own way. There were no raps, no singing, no gimmicks. Just the pure music that J Dilla created in jazz form. It’s amazing to me that a hip hop producer’s work can be integrated so well with traditional music, another fantastic representation of this seen in Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s Suite for Ma Dukes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised though, seeing as how unique and talented Dilla was as a producer. He was truly one of a kind.
My only complaint with this performance was the obnoxious crowd. I’m curious as to whether anybody there realized what they were hearing. It’s a shame that there is no studio recorded version of the performance available, I would certainly purchase it if this were to ever happen. Sorry that this was a bit of a read, if you made it this far though here is a special surprise for you!