J Dilla's Donuts

J Dilla's Donuts

4.15 (620 ratings by Goodreads)
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From a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James "J Dilla" Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beatmakers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as "hip hop music" is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeous and heartbreaking the next. The samples and melodies tell the story of a man coming to terms with his declining health, a final love letter to the family and friends he was leaving behind. As a prolific producer with a voracious appetite for the history and mechanics of the music he loved, J Dilla knew the records that went into constructing Donuts inside and out. He could have taken them all and made a much different, more accessible album. If the widely accepted view is that his final work is a record about dying, the question becomes why did he make this record about dying?

Drawing from philosophy, critical theory and musicology, as well as Dilla's own musical catalogue, Jordan Ferguson shows that the contradictory, irascible and confrontational music found on Donuts is as much a result of an artist's declining health as it is an example of what scholars call "late style," placing the album in a musical tradition that stretches back centuries.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 160 pages
  • 121 x 165 x 10.16mm | 154g
  • Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 1623561833
  • 9781623561833
  • 158,518

Table of contents

1. Welcome to the Show
2. The Diff'rence
3. Hi.
4. Waves
5. Stop!
6. The Twister (Huh, What)
7. Workinonit
8. Two Can Win
9. Geek Down
10. The New
11. Bye.
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Review quote

This intelligent book uses the records and insights of Dilla's contemporaries to examine his approach to production, his relationships within the genre, love of records and how Donuts can be seen as a piece of music attuned to its creator's failing health. An insightful and emotive read. -- James Griffin * Bonafide Magazine * Jordan Ferguson's book on Donuts provides a trove of information about what was clearly one of the albums of the last decade of any genre [...]Ferguson offers a cogent reading of the album. Others have speculated that Jay Dee buried "secret messages" within the tracks. I don't know how secret they are but it is clear that there were major preoccupations, life-death-relationships and, of course, music. What he produced was a brilliant, multi-layered, sonically exhilarating work and Ferguson has done the album justice with this slim volume. -- Robert Iannapollo * ARSC Journal * Excerpted * Stones Throw * That such a lively collection of beats and samples-as cerebral as they are physical-was created by a dying man ensures that Jordan Ferguson's book will be poignant, but his clear storytelling and direct prose allows producer James Yancey to emerge as a complicated, contradictory character. The first half is the most extensive biography we have of the man, from his childhood in Detroit to his death in Los Angeles, just three days after the release of Donuts. The second half grapples with the album as a meditation on mortality, which only shows what an immense talent the world lost. -- Stephen M. Deusner * Pitchfork *
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About Jordan Ferguson

Jordan Ferguson is a freelance culture writer based in Toronto. He can be found online at poetryforgravediggers.com.
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Rating details

620 ratings
4.15 out of 5 stars
5 37% (229)
4 43% (269)
3 18% (110)
2 2% (10)
1 0% (2)
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