Scouring the late legend’s posthumous catalog for actual unheards from the vault
Round these parts, there’s never really a bad space or time to chart the impact of the late and immeasurably great J Dilla. I mean, in the eleven years since his death, the entire month of February has become one long bittersweet memorial to the Soulquarian spirit. And that’s fitting and all; we’ll likely keep this ritual going until every last centimeter of vaulted tape is released. But the math behind this uncommon legacy is long and complicated despite its decade-plus span, exceeding his mortal form well into the current day.
In just eleven years, films have been dedicated to his memory (Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton) and the vault excavation are well underway with twelve posthumous beat tapes and three full albums, one of which, The Diary, was a lost-but-later-found vocal album, featuring Dilla at his damndest on the mic and his favorite producers providing the suite (Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, Madlib, Kanye and the beat-conducting elite all accounted for.) His patrons, however, remain a particularly hard-to-please bunch.
It’s not the new-to-you material is unwelcome: again, we savor the moment to hear something unearthed from his expansive archives (the samples from which have been compiled in our borderline sacrilegious, but entirely educational Cheat Sheet,) but Dilla’s diehards are relentless, damn-near ruthless, marauders of internet back-alleys, snagging every bootleg under the sun. Which makes the task of actually presenting new material to their seasoned ears a more challenging one than Ma Dukes and the estate are prepared to embrace.
To their credit, some of the afterlife drops have been extensive in scope: both Jay Dee’s Ma Dukes Collection and The King Of Beats anthology have been revelatory, precisely as advertised. Others — Dillatroit, Jay Stay Paid, Dillatronic, and even the more recent Motor City — have done more repackaging of well-circulated early selections than bring anything new to light. So on National Donut Day, a holiday that will forever feed our ears and our guts alike, we’ve sifted through the posthumous beat tape catalog to bring you 60 hand-picked selections that even the most devout Dilla head probably missed in their torrent sweep.
Raise a glass (of milk) and a fresh glazed to the first installment of our Posthumous Pearls series below. Hit the link to subscribe to our Spotify channel today.