A posthumous J Dilla release is always a bittersweet experience; lovingly handpicked by "Ma Dukes," his latest batch of Detroit-funk, Motor City, is 19 tracks in length. However, this is nothing like a series re-worked Biggie Smalls or Tupac songs featuring hot-shot new producers — this is all Dilla, no filter. More of a collection of sporadic ideas (understandably) ripped from the sketchbook of master painter after exploring a lost workshop.
Not all 19 songs are fully realized. Many stand at under a minute. Though the songs seem largely underdeveloped — perhaps they were en route to one of his beat tapes — there are some bright moments of brilliance. "Motor City 8," for example, uses a sped-up sample of Brenton Wood's "Show Me A Little Sign," while "Motor City 14" is a minimalistic take on "For The Love Of Money" by the O'Jays. "Motor City 11" is a new take on Eddie Hazel's "Frantic Moment," a sample made famous by DJ Premier on Gangstarr's debut album.
A few tracks like "Motor City 17" and "Motor City 13" come across as slightly more finished, dripping with the traditional Dilla sound. Longtime friend J.Rocc's mega-mix of all the beats, with vocal samples and blends, make it all come together, though. Even the beats that seemed underwhelming begin to impress.
It's been 11 years since Dilla passed away from complications due to lupus, and he's still regarded as one of the best producers to do ever do it. While we likely won't get another Donuts, Ma Dukes continues to take us further down the rabbit hole. We're not sure what we're looking for, but we'll know it when we hear it. (Ma Dukes Official / Vintage Vibez)