The passing of hip-hop giant J Dilla caused a significant impact on the community he bestowed his music upon. Countless tributes, dedications and remembrances have honored the late, great, Detroit producer and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. One of Jay Dee’s personal heroes was fellow producer, Pete Rock. Much like Rock, Dilla placed an emphasis on the vivid style of his drums and on sampling old, soul, hidden gems. And now, along with the help of Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, Rock has delivered another fitting tribute to Dilla’s unforgettable life.
The production is all Dilla’s; however, Rock flourishes at the commands with a dashing balance of instrumental tracks and beat-nodding dynamics that feature some of the great artists Dilla had worked with during his career. There’s enough gritty, other-worldly flashiness like Phat Kat’s rapping on “Digi Dirt,” which smoothly transitions into the hard-hitting slamming of Danny Brown and Constantine on “Dilla Bot vs. The Hybrid.”
The contributions are timely and they make for truly alluring music. Where Donuts was Dilla’s instrumental masterpiece and The Shining was Dilla’s great beats & MC project, Jay Stay Paid is the best of both worlds. But just as much as Dilla was about arranging premier landscapes for the artists to contribute their craft, he was all in it for the soul and love. In situations where the fidelity can be scaled back and the atmospherics are allowed to chime in, “King” is a ripe example of this. And on “Expensive Whip,” Dilla can take the foot off the pedal and simply relax to the catchy drive he’s known for. It’s hard to tell just how much production Rock did on his own, but I’d argue most of it is all Dilla. The emergency horn many of his songs have come to express is daringly portrayed on “On Stilts” and its percussion-heavy track. And on “See that Boy Fly,” Dilla’s brother, aptly dubbed Illa J, shares his love for his sibling on the album’s longest track. It’s still about making sure his brother gets paid but Illa J is also finding a way to convey that his brother is somewhere, out there, flying above us.
Jay Stay Paid plays and sounds like a classic hip-hop radio station. Spinning off 28 tracks and an hour-long of Dilla’s best beats, the album is seamlessly orchestrated into one terrific album. It’s obvious-from the instrumental proficiency alone-that Rock was influenced by Dilla just as much as the Detroit legend looked up to him. And it’s surprisingly consistent, combining music from Dilla’s beginning to music he was working on while in the hospital-it all resonates like one excellent story.
Sounding like he’s hit a strong stride, newly-named DOOM shows up on “Fire Wood Drumstix.” He sounds richly invigorated and his confidence is overflowing, it’s especially apparent when he raps, “These things are not toys, only to be handled by kings who’s got poise, not boys. You hear me, twerps?” And putting his improvisation skills to great use, Black Thought MCs about everything from Dr. Phil to Flavor of Love to America’s Best Dance Crew on “Reality TV.” Bouncing in front of one of the album’s better beats, The Roots’ frontman calls everyone out in fantastic fashion and stills finds a way to hit home by reminding us how we “watch The Real World re-runs during dinner.”
It’s certainly still a sad feeling when hearing all of this outstanding music, especially when it’s portrayed in such an astounding manner. But in many ways, Dilla would have enjoyed for everyone to celebrate his music by rapping over it, borrowing the samples and even using his beats. Rounding out his catalog, Jay Stay Paid makes a worthy addition to any hip-hop aficionado’s collection.