Donuts

by J Dilla

Released February 7, 2006 via Stones Throw Records

Reviewed February 11, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Don’t Cry (80%), Time: The Donut of the Heart (64%), Workinonit (60%)

"You sing it and then I'll show you how my voice has made it unbelievable.” So goes the opening sound bit on "Don't Cry" as J Dilla does just that. He briefly lets a '70s soul tune play uninterrupted before jumping in to manipulate, chop, and speed it up into a precarious flurry of gentle noise. It seems illogical that a debilitated man lying in a hospital bed could enhance and modernize the spirit of black music with merely a stack of old 45's and a device the size of your high school math calculator. Yet such is the story of Donuts, the ultimate swan song released three days before the world lost the most talented hip-hop producer it ever knew. Rarely has the intrinsic nature of humanity been captured so vividly. Through plunderphonics, Dilla creates a record that magically lives and breathes his individualistic being. The genres and generations that collide on this record far transcend any of its individual influences. Evolutionary forever. R.I.P. Dilla. – Enth (10/10)

Dilla died just three days after unleashing this behemoth of human emotion onto the world at the young age of 32. He built extremely complex, beautiful, and vibrant vignettes all while in the misery of a hospital bed. He would often produce while wearing a breathing mask, and it induces chills to think about him pouring every last ounce he had left in him into this album. You can just feel the roller coaster of emotions he went through in that environment, but you can tell that even when things became dark, he had a love for the world and the people that meant something to him. Fellow producers, his family, and friends would bring him records to the hospital, and while not ideal, it showed the immense amount of love and passion they had for the man dedicating that same love and passion into this release that would change music forever. – Jared (10/10)

Released only a few days prior to J Dilla’s passing, Donuts means as much to hip-hop as just about any instrumental record. A majority of tracks were recorded in the hospital as Jay Dee underwent treatment for chronic health conditions, adding to the already alluring lore of this project, considered by many to be his magnum opus. Almost contradictory in its sound, Donuts has an effortless fluidity to its rather choppy, swinging samples. And while the percussion on this project is actually modest for Dilla’s catalog, it’s still unmistakably his. Tracks like “Stop,” “One For Ghost,” and “Last Donut Of The Night” are twinkling demonstrations of Dilla’s mastery in adding meat to a sample’s graceful bones, but songs like “Mash,”“The Twister (Huh, What),”and “The Diff’rence” are equally as remarkable in their disjointed, sound-collage style that still holds influence in the landscape of hip-hop today. Donuts is timeless, and the best and most effective way to honor Dilla's legacy is to simply put it on and let the experience envelope you, bit by bit. – Pax (10/10)


Alan: 10/10 | Ben (Synth): 10/10 | Cam: 10/10 | DeVán: 10/10 | Dominick: 10/10

Enth: 10/10 | Hadley: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | Pax: 10/10