J Dilla

Ruff Draft (Stones Throw)

A remastered reissue of an out-of-print underground hip-hop classic, Ruff Draft is the late, great J Dilla at a creative apex. It took him a week to turn the whole thing out, but that was more than enough time to unleash a maelstrom of lo-fi breakbeat jams that paid tribute to old-school hip-hop's simplicity and structure ("Make 'em NV" and "Crushin'") while it reinvigorated the game with more experimental looping techniques and spacy sampling ("Nothing Like This" and "Let's Take It Back"). Until last month, Ruff Draft had mostly seen the light of day on turntables, but recent renewed interest in Dilla's work — not to mention the mountains of medical bills bequeathed to his saintly mother — warranted a rerelease of what many consider to be some of the Detroit beat architect's best work. A couple of alternate tracks ("Intro" and "Shouts") and unreleased session takes ("Wild" and "Take Notice") are interesting enough but don't really add anything new to the stew. However, instrumental versions of nearly every song on the original LP turn the latter half of Ruff Draft into an instant party mix that should successfully snap the necks and shake the asses off rabid fans and casual listeners alike. Rather than repackage readily available material for fun and profit, the folks at Stones Throw have gone and done the music listening public a tremendous favor, distributing a seminal hip-hop creation for mass consumption while simultaneously documenting it for posterity.

 
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