J Dilla Jay Stay Paid

[Nature Sounds; 2009]

Styles: hip-hop instrumentals, beat tape
Others: Pete Rock, DOOM, A Tribe Called Quest, Madlib

The late J Dilla is so widely and publicly revered in the hip-hop world that first reactions to yet another posthumous release have yet to go all the way from “yeah, yo” to “uh oh,” but the stack of jewel cases is getting pretty high. In fact, the ratio of material released before and after Dilla’s untimely passing at age 32 is getting so wobbly that the press sheet makes sure the first thing you know about Jay Stay Paid is that it was put together by Pete Rock and Dilla’s mom, not some Tupac-style money grubbers. And Rock is the ideal man for the job: a progenitor and, later, booster of Jay Dee’s production style, he structures the disc like a radio show mix and tosses in a few asides himself here and there from the DJ booth of KJAY FM.

The whole disc is heavy on woozy synths, which is especially solid on “Digi Dirt” (featuring Phat Kat) and “Mythsysizer,” and of course that trademark slow-rising siren wail is always rearing its head out of the murky depths in the background. Most of the songs split his usual style somewhere between soul jazz and spaced-out funk, with wonderfully weird results on Frankenstein standouts like “Lazer Gunne Funk,” “Milk Money,” “On Stilts,” and “Coming Back.” Most of the best moments stick to the funk, though, like on head-nodders “Glamour Sho75,” “10,000 Watts,” and the stupendous “Make It Fast Mega Mix.”

Unfortunately the best MC guest cameos are the briefest. Raekwon and Mobb Deep’s Havoc are faded right out with the rest of “24K Rap” just as they start to pick up steam. The same thing happens to DOOM, but no tears will fall for a verse as boring as his on “Fire Wood Drumstix,” which is too bad since he’s the perfect candidate for a tribute, having built his solo and production career on manic mutations of the classic Dilla blueprint. It would have been nice to hear more of longtime Dilla MCs Frank ‘n Dank, whose Frank Nitty heats up “Pay Day,” or the kind of good-time verses Danny Brown and Constantine lay down on “Dilla Bot vs. The Hybrid.” Black Thought name-checking every TV show he doesn’t like over “Reality Check” hardly improves the less-than-remarkable beat.

But the back half still comes on strong, thanks to Rock’s judicious distribution of golden nuggets throughout the tracklist and, of course, the still-mindblowing consistency of even Dilla’s leftover salads. “KJay and We Out” ends things on a high note, a classic Dilla pastiche of crackly strings and fluttering guitar. It’s no Donuts, but it’s definitely another solid entry in the Dilla canon and a reminder of how lucky fans are to have another beat tape this valuable in the absence of the man himself.

1. KJAY FM Dedication
2. King
3. I Told Y'all
4. Laser Gunne Funke
5. In The Night / While You Slept (I Crept)
6. Smoke ft. Blu
7. Blood Sport ft. Lil Fame
9. Expensive Whip
10. Kaklow (Jump On It)
11. Digi Dirt ft. Phat Kat
12. Dilla Bot Vs. The Hybrid ft. Danny Brown
13. Milk Money
14. Space Cowboy Vs. Bobble Head
15. Reality TV ft. Black Thought
16. On Stilts
17. Fire Wood Drumstix ft. DOOM
18. Glamour Sho75
19. 10,000 Watts
20. 9th Caller
21. Make It Fast (Unadulterated Mix) ft. Diz Gibran
22. 24K Rap ft. Havoc of Mobb Deep and Raekwon
23. Big City
24. Pay Day ft. Frank Nitty
25. See That Boy Fly ft. Illa J and Que D
26. Coming Back
27. Mythysizer
28. KJAY And We Out

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