I admit up front this is an odd choice. I’m reviewing the “Welcome 2 Detroit Instrumental” instead of the original J Dilla album it spawned from. You’ll have to forgive the conceit but since I just reviewed “Dillatronic” a couple of weeks ago, I was already in the mood to listen to James Yancey rock beats without rhymes. “Welcome 2 Detroit” will get a separate piece later on, but for now I’m fucking with the instrumental version since this was the first time Dilla was Dilla. This album was co-billed as being both a Jay Dee and a J Dilla release, marking the first time in his already well established recording career that he adopted the latter moniker, so let’s celebrate that moment.

For example — “Come Get It” is a complete mood with or without Elzhi on the track. It has all of the hallmarks of a classic Dilla production. This is a large atmospheric song with a lot of structure that simultaneously feels like a cloud of marijuana smoke drifting through a room. It goes where it wants. Sometimes the beat drops. Sometimes you only hear the drums. Dilla takes and removes layers at whatever time he thinks is right to do it, and while it make more sense in context of Elzhi’s performance, it doesn’t make less here. I apologize if that doesn’t make sense in print. There’s a lot of what made Dilla great that’s incredibly hard to translate.

“It’s Like That” might help though. If you’re old enough you might automatically hear the words “and that’s the way it is” after reading the song title. For Dilla the way it was, the way it is, and the way it shall always be posthumously was to be funky. If that means during the middle of a track you hear a sound like a rocketship taking off, or a random snippet of a synthesizer stabbed into the beat, or percussion so crispy that it crackles like good fried chicken, that’s a Dilla track through and through. You don’t just nod your head to a Dilla track. You nod your SOUL.

When Dilla wants you to “Shake It Down” are you going to stay motionless or go with his flow? I think you’ll do the latter. While the size of his catalogue is only matched up (sadly) by the amount of medical bills he racked up while alive, releases like “Welcome 2 Detroit Instrumental” remind us just how much he changed the game in a lifespan that was far too short. Even decades after his death producers are trying and failing to mimic his sense of timing, his deft sample choices, and how remarkably CLEAN even the dirtiest tracks were. Unless you hear a beat tape of things he never finished and may not have intended to put out, a Dilla album has a high gloss finish, and this one is certainly no exception.

J Dilla :: Welcome 2 Detroit Instrumental
8Overall Score