J Dilla (Jay Dee) / Donuts

James Yancey, better known as J-Dilla, died this February at the age of 32 due to complications from Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects the black community at a higher rate than most. Mr. Yancey was diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease three years ago and had many up and down bouts with the disease's harmful effects on his body. In the months leading up to his death, James did not share his doctor's news that his health was taking a serious turn for the worst with friends or even his manager. Instead of curling up and letting his fate be sealed, James Yancey locked himself in a studio and worked. The result of this last effort is some of J's best work to date. J-Dilla's instrumental masterpiece "Donuts" plays like a soundtrack to his life. His production is strong enough to stand on its own and communicates his thoughts and feelings better than most MC's can do with words. After getting his start working on A Tribe Called Quest's production team, Dilla hooked back up with his high school friends and formed the best hip-hop group to come out of Detroit thus far, Slum Village. Slum Village found their success largely through the signature funk that J-Dilla provided for them. Few rap producers and DJ's have such a defined and refined sound that you can easily pick out a beat they put together even when others have sampled the same drum beat from the same song before. "Donuts" is a must for any young rapper who wants to see if he or she has skills because if you rhyme over any one of these tracks no one can blame your wackness on the beat. J-Dilla is responsible for much of the good American black music of the last decade including much of the neo-soul movement which came across the black community like a breath of fresh air. "Donuts" is the heart and soul of one of the best hip-hop producers who ever lived. (Amahl Grant)

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