February 10 marked the five-year anniversary of the passing of James Yancey, AKA J Dilla. Dilla was a master at pairing an obscure soul sample with crisp snares. He left behind a large body of production work and several albums, including the sold “Ruff Draft” and essential “Donuts.” While he wasn’t well-known during his life, he has been lionized in death, and has influenced an army of young producers.
One of those producers is fellow Detroit denizen Robby Wildebeat, who has released an album of instrumentals that all owe something to the late Dilla. “My Salad Days Vol. 1” is a 26-track collection of hip-hop instrumentals built around familiar-sounding crisp snares and soul snippets.
It’s probably unfair to compare Wildebeat to a legendary producer, but there’s no way around it. He’s clearly cribbing from Dilla’s stylebook, but doesn’t quite have the skills or genius that made Dilla’s work on the boards so amazing. This is all stuff we’ve heard before. Sped up soul samples? Check. Samples chopped up into abstract chunks? Check. Seventies lite-rock samples? Check. Rattling snares? Check. Wildebeat definitely doesn’t break any new ground here.
As familiar and unoriginal as “My Salad Days Vol. 1” is, at least he’s copying a good sound. If you are going to ape someone, you might as well ape one of the best. I found myself enjoying this despite, or maybe because of, how derivative it was. To his credit, he also has moments were he breaks into new territory, like the gorgeous “JDrummer,” or the electro-funky “General Crooks.” Wildebeast may not be an original, but he is a solid producer. “My Salad Days Vol. 1” is available for the low low price of nothing at his Bandcamp page, so if you are in need of some Detroit-style beats, give it a listen.