The beat was originally played by Questlove during a Red Bull Music Academy lecture.
For many J Dilla fans, Donuts marks the late producer’s final transmission. Recorded in the hospital as his health rapidly deteriorated, the album was released just days before his death in 2006.
And while dozens of posthumous albums of the producer’s work have made it difficult to develop a sense of what left his MPC and when, there seems to be a consensus, at least, on which of his hundreds (thousands?) of beats was the very last to be chopped, sequenced, and exported. Originally played during one of Questlove’s Red Bull Music Academy lectures, the beat has been circulated in various pockets of the internet over the last seven years or so. However, a cleaned-up version of the track has surfaced, offering new clarity to what is truly “the last donut of the night.”
The howling and subdued stomp samples the slow-burning title track of Funkadelic‘s 1972 album, America Eats Its Young. “It’s very haunting to listen to, especially when you hear the original song. Because by that point, even though he was not really able to communicate all that well, he was using records to communicate what he was feeling,” Questlove explains before playing the track. Though it wasn’t featured on his final album, the unreleased and untitled instrumental, known only as “The Last Beat,” feels like an eery extension of the work gathered on Donuts; not only in how the original sample peaks through, but also in the fairly understated chop of source material intentionally chosen to invoke a very specific tone.
Hear the very last beat J Dilla ever made below. You can also catch a few previously unreleased versions of songs from the producer’s debut album, Welcome 2 Detroit, in a recently-released 20th-anniverdary vinyl box-set.