Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Time: The Donut Of The Heart

On their excellent Def Jam debut, "Game Theory", The Roots pay homage to sadly departed hip hop Renaissance man J Dilla with verses on perhaps the finest beat from his "Donuts" LP, "Time: The Donut Of The Heart". If it's occasionally been a little baffling when the man formerly known as Jay Dee is frequently held up as rap's greatest producer, a few days in the company of "Donuts" sets things straight. No one turns a soul sample like Dilla. Of contemporary rap's recent hitmakers, he is perhaps the one with the most understanding of hip hop and its relationship to the music that went before it. Just listen to the above track or "Two Can Win", "Anti-American Graffiti", "Gobstopper", "One For Ghost"... I could go on.

But The Roots know what they're doing plucking "Time..." from amongst all this lush, soulful, life-affirming hip hop goodness. It’s in the way that the vocal emerges from the sumptuous repetition of the slowed-down motif. It just breaks free to fly with strings, harmonies and the voice only to be snatched away just as abruptly. And that's an object lesson in sampling and hip hop production. At its most simple: taking the best bit and getting it again and again but not so often that greed for the hit becomes indulgent, bloated.

The Roots' track is called "Can't Stop This" and sees Black Thought delivering genuinely moving tributes in the most fitting way possible, by bringing a fine beat to life with a rhyme. Surely Stones Throw have to commission a tribute version of "Donuts" with guest emcees let loose on this beautiful raw material. Start drawing up your dream list...

The Roots - "Game Theory" is out on Aug 28
J Dilla - "Donuts" is out now


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