By Chris Pacifico
In the world of hip-hop, there are beat makers who are made and those that are born. J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) was the latter. A Detroit native, Dilla was inspired by his large vinyl collection to learn how to play an array of instruments and produced singles for the top brass of early 90’s hip-hop including A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and the Pharcyde. Even after forming Slum Village in 1996, Dilla remained active in the scene with his own newfangled beats and production techniques. Sadly, Dilla died in February 2006, only three days after his 32nd birthday, from cardiac arrest stemming from his battle with Lupus. The Shining is a posthumous release, which along with the Donuts album was worked on by Dilla from his hospital bed in his last days. Being only three-quarters of the way completed at the time of his passing, Dilla's mother, Maureen Yancey, gave her blessing to producer Karriem Riggins to add the finishing touches.
The Shining kicks off with "Geek Down," a whizzing intro with the raspy growl of Busta Rhymes. Boho emcee Common adds his trademark ultra chilled flow on the smooth "So Far to Go" as well as on "E=MC2," which lets the listener saturate in the groove before breaking into his flow. Pretty good for Common considering his earthy, nonconformist mien is waning due to his shameless appearance in a commercial for The Gap.
The Shining also keeps it real by paying homage to the foundation hip-hop vibe of a 70's ghetto party, complete with the platform shoes, shag carpet, hi-fi and bell bottoms. Pharoahe Monch tones down his syllabic stacking style on the aptly titled "Love." It's a different, yet welcome, treat seeing to that last time people heard Monch's name was in 1999 on just about every underground DJ's mixtape screaming "Simon says get the fuck up!" Madlib, from the Dilla collaboration Jaylib, drops by along with newcomer Guilty Simpson for the psych funk filled "Baby." Madlib also appears on the polyrhythmic "Jungle Love." M.E.D. Riggins throws down on the Triton bass with the velutinous "Over the Breaks."
The Shining will require the listener to have an ice pack handy for all the head bobbing that's a natural side effect of these grooves. It's clouded in a shroud of chilled cinematic soul that's not only good for getting your party on. It reminds us of the tremendous loss of Dilla while simultaneously celebrating his life, work, and contribution to the world of hip-hop. While he may be gone, he won't soon be forgotten.
JamBase | Detroit
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