J Dilla: The Diary (Pay Jay/Mass Appeal) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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J Dilla

The Diary

Pay Jay/Mass Appeal

Aug 02, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The late J Dilla shot to fame in the '90s and early '00s for his textured, soul infused production of alt-rap and neb-soul classics like Janet Jackson's "Got Til It's Gone," Common's "The Light," plus his acclaimed albums like Donuts and Champion Sound (which he recorded as JayLib with fellow crate digging producer Madlib).

However, the legendary producer's latest posthumous release bears little resemblance to his best work. Flashes of his brilliance fortunately shine through, to borrow a phrase of Jay himself, especially on standout track "The Shining Pt. 1 (Diamonds)." It features gleaming keyboard work and clever lines about how he describes diamonds, like: "multifaceted, you could cut glass with it." Better still is "The Ex," which features a minimalist melancholy baseline, heartbeat percussion and an unsurprisingly stellar turn from frequent collaborator Bilal, whose sports car slick voice allows him to convincingly mimic screeching tires as Jay describes a former flame who got away.

Unfortunately, another song that focuses entirely on vehicles crashes and burns. Dubbed "Trucks," the song is basically a cover of Gary Numan's "Here In My Car," adopting the elder hitmaker's chorus and synth melody. However, that chorus swaps out "car" for "truck," adjusts the rhyme accordingly but clunkily, and is delivered in a sing-songy delivery that is grating. Uninspired lines about "four big wheels with the TVs to match," don't help. A similar, cringe inducing karaoke style chorus can be heard on "The Creep." Opening track "The introduction" features more questionable lines ("when I was a young nigger/before my uncle Al let me pull a gun trigger"), which are all but outdone by "The Anthem's," clunkers ("Pass the liquor/We get f'd up, get asses quicker" which, along with yet another singsongy chorus, stifle a more promising Arabic flavored guitar motif).

Dilla's legacy is invincible at this point, a point proved by the endless artists that still shout him out on their records. However, any lesser musician's entire discography would be forever tarnished by a release as lackluster as The Diary. Let's be thankful for Dilla's prior, immaculate releases, for which this new LP falls far short of. (www.j-dilla.com)

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 3/10


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