Published Apr 15, 2016Posthumous albums are always tricky, especially coming from someone like revered Detroit producer and emcee J Dilla. Without the artist around to provide their input on the project, there's always a risk that their true essence will be diluted. Is this latest album such an example? Thankfully, no. The Diary has its flaws, but inauthenticity is not one of them.
Despite confident rhymes from Dilla and production from heavy-hitters like Nottz and Madlib, Diary admittedly gets off to a shaky start. Legal woes, record label bureaucracy and financial setbacks caused the album's release to be delayed by over a decade and it shows — at first, Diary simply sounds too dated to resonate. But all is quickly forgiven when Dilla's hazy "Trucks" starts to play. A masterful rework of Gary Numan's "Cars," Dilla puts an undeniable Motor City spin on the track and makes it completely his own; it's a timely, powerful reminder that his style remains unmatched.
Cincinnati phenom Hi-Tek rarely disappoints, and his contributions to Diary are no exception. "The Creep (The O)" is a definite gem, over which Dilla spits a cautionary tale about infidelity. "The Ex," another standout, features soul crooner Bilal engaging in a discussion with a past love, underscored by smooth production from hip-hop legend Pete Rock. And, timely despite its age, the previously released "Fuck the Police" is something like a yardstick for our current time, a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Although the overall sound doesn't quite fit today's landscape, The Diary should be appreciated for shining where many other posthumous records fail. There's nothing forced or gimmicky here; The Diary manages to sound genuine and allows Dilla's spirit to shine through. (Pay Jay / Mass Appeal)