Monday, October 8, 2012

Rebirth of Detroit

by J Dilla

There is a real law of diminishing returns in action with posthumous musical releases.  Basically, the best stuff either came out while the artist was still alive, or was in the pipeline at the time of his death.  Once you move a few years down the road, people trying to keep an artist's legacy alive are left searching long-forgotten thumb drives for beats the artist dashed off in an afternoon, and then abandoned for a reason.

There are some great tracks on Rebirth of Detroit, the latest in a long line of posthumous Dilla releases, but they are few and far between.  For the most part, this album features a lot of lesser-known Detroit rappers spitting over Dilla's C-game.

I appreciate the effort made by Ma Dukes and whoever worked on this with her (although there has been some controversy about how the album really got made) to include the next generation of Detroit MCs, but not everyone on here deserves a Dilla track, even if its not his best.  We also get a lot of tracks featuring the usual Detroit artists, like Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, Fat Ray, Frank Nitt, and of course, Illa J.  It would have been nice to see some of Dilla's other friends, like Common or Madlib grace a track or two.

Because I want to spend my time being positive, let's look at the brightest notes here.  There are two tracks which feature the musician Allan Barnes, from the Blackbyrds.  These are easily the best on the album - on 'Requiem', he's playing a wind instrument over a nice mellow Dilla beat, and on 'The Best That Ever Did It', which features the rapper Jon C., he plays his sax.  That track uses a beat Dilla released before (I want to say it's on Jay Love Japan, but I could be wrong), but it sounds amazing with the saxophone added on.

I also really like the track 'Let's Pray Together' with Amp Fiddler.  There are some decent bangers elsewhere on this disc, but I think I'll stick to playing Donuts and Ruff Draft if I need my Dilla fix.

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