2/10/2007

The Sample and the Source vol. 3: J Dilla and The Jackson Five



Tonight at Galapagos Art Space a few Stones Throw away from my joint in Greenpoint, a one-of-a-kind event is coming off that, to your luck if you're in New York, was not featured in the Village Voice, which I guess might still give a shot of getting in. That is, if you think a free event hosted by the reemerged Pharoah Monch with a Brooklyn Brewery open bar from 10-11 p.m. and some of the greatest hip-hop ever playing from the speakers has any chance of going under the radar. The event is Donuts Are Forever, a special event to celebrate the life and life's work of J Dilla/ Jay Dee, possibly the greatest hip-hop producer ever.

The amazing instrumental record the event's title references, Donuts, was completed by Dilla as he lay dying, using whatever minimal equipment could be moved into Jay's hospital room; although the beats may be his best ever, they are also simpler insomuch as they are a return to the bread-and-butter of hip-hop production, pure sampling. (Jay's trademark drum productions are nowhere to be found; either they couldn't haul the drum machines in, or he just didn't want to go out like that.) Simple, but beautiful; heartbreaking too, when you know where he was when he made this record, what he knew would be among his last acts of creation before the Creator came for him, much like Matisse's cutouts. I've listened to this record more than anything I've owned since I was 13 and first bought Midnight Marauders, and that record was what actually started me as a serious music listener.

The sample source of "Time: The Donuts Of The Heart" off Donuts is a Jackson Five track, "All I Do Is Think Of You"; it retains the melancholy of the track, but speeds it up in interesting ways, then finds an ill spot to just luxuriate (or perhaps, judging from the female voice in the background, bonestorm). Sure, you lose a performance by Michael of the sort that actually had people convinced he might be straight, and the bassoon touch in "All I Do..." needs to be heard, but I think this is just a great example of just how little a hip-hop producer needs to do sometimes to create a magic minute. The hip-hop producer, after all, is just the cousin of the DJ, and the DJ was born the first time cats like Kool Herc discovered the joy of playing the sweet spot of a record again and again.

The video below is mindblowing as well...a Korean punk rock band covering this very Dilla song. Read that sentence again.

Oh, and then look again at the shirt Jay's wearing at the top of the picture. And tell me where I can buy that.

Head out to Williamsburg if you can, especially since I can't be there. Rest in peace, James Yancey.

J Dilla- "Time: The Donuts Of The Heart"

The Jackson Five- "All I Do Is Think Of You"

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