15 years after its release, J Dilla‘s magnum opus, Donuts, is still, arguably, hip-hop’s most celebrated instrumental album. Released on his 33rd birthday — and just three days shy of his passing — in February 2006, the 41-minute collage of classic soul chops, jagged electronics, and minimalistic drum programming, has wracked up a number of long-running myths about its creation that have circulated amongst fans and critics alike. One of the more prevalent not-quite-triusms revolves around Dilla making the album from his hospital bed. And, as the chief of Stones Throw Records, no one is better positioned to debunk this particular bit of folklore than Peanut Better Wolf.
Speaking with Prince Paul on the latest episode of The 33 1/3 Podcast, Wolf opened up about his relationship with the late producer and what it was like working with him to release his final album as he was fighting through dual bouts with Lupus and TTP, a pair of auto-immune disorders that would eventually claim his life. “He gave me a version of Donuts before he was sick again,” Wolf recalls, going on to describe how the two of them were returning from a 2005 trip to Rockaway Records in Los Angeles with Madlib and J. Rocc when the original tape was handed over. Wolf acknowledges the project was not yet finished at the time, but only because Dilla insisted on continuing to work in it if was going to get a proper release. But if it were up to Wolf, the original tape would have been the one. “The original one was about a half an hour and I was like ‘What’s up with releasing this as is? This is great, you know, I love it. Let’s just put it out. It’s already done, you don’t need to do anything different,'” Wolf says. The project was eventually finished in October 2005 and Dilla would be in and out of the hospital until he ultimately passed on February 10th, 2006. Wolf estimates his final days were likely spent working on other beats with a sampler and record player brought to his hospital room by Madlib.
Hear Peanut Butter Wolf discuss the making, completion, and release, of J Dilla’s final studio album, Donuts, below.
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