Anniversary Review: J Dilla – The Shining

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They reissued this for its anniversary, replete with the instrumental versions of the tracks and nothing else. And its re-circulation is just part of the ongoing assault of posthumous J Dilla releases that’s been going on for a decade now, which haven’t yielded much of note in years.

As far as posthumous J Dilla releases, this one’s alright, but its flaws are readily apparent: despite Karriem Riggins being entrusted to finish the never-completed product by Dilla’s mother, The Shining feels incomplete, in stark contrast to the forthcoming (and significantly better) Jay Stay Paid. (I can see from Wikipedia that Mr. Riggins is credited as coproducing “Over the Breaks” and “Body Movin.’”) Maybe it’s because its only 12 tracks spanning 36 minutes, which would be fine if it were tighter, but it isn’t: Busta Rhymes’ contribution to “Geek Down” – the opener, no less – and Guilty Simpson and MED on “Jungle Love” are the start of a long, never-ending tradition of having rappers waste Dilla beats; the former’s cicada-buzz beat was more interesting than it was good while the latter somehow manages to be an oxymoronically plodding rave-up. Actually, the rapping on this album ranges is almost completely innocuous with a few exceptions: Pharoah Monche’s intro before the orchestra and sample completely overpower him on “Love”; Black Thought’s contribution on “Love Movin.’”

Highlights: “E=MC2” and “Love” are some of Dilla’s simply catchiest beats, with the former sounding like a funkier Kraftwerk song and the latter containing a simply indelible sample throughout, and while “Baby” (co-produced by Madlib)’s sample is indeed overused, it doesn’t stop the orchestration from being on-point. Elsewhere, there’s a melody buried somewhere in the digital bass buzz of “Body Movin’”; “So Far To Go” reworks Donuts’ “Bye.” into something headier and faster, and sexier too, thanks to D’Angelo. And while J Dilla’s rapping on “Won’t Do” ain’t special, the bursting-molecules beat certainly is.

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