J Dilla’s classic, Welcome 2 Detroit, turns 20 this week. The reissue pulls out all of the stops with instrumentals, remixes, and even a book. The original songs are still well worth a revisit. Sure, there’s some dated sounding stuff, but this album is so full of vibe it still can melt a room. His influence changed rap, soul, jazz… and this record captures a key moment in his contribution.
Everybody still (rightfully) focuses on how his drums had so much swagger, but on these tracks in particular you get the full sense of the breadth of his arrangement capabilities. He was drawing magic out of every person, instrument, and sound, meticulously painting a picture with their combinations.
With Dilla, you never knew where the live session ended and the sampling began. It was organic and engineered, like a perfectly architected terrarium, with one part pre-molded and another part of the moment.
One of my favorite tracks is the third song, “Think Twice.” The technical description is it’s sexy as shit. It’s a deeeeeep groove. And the horns. And the layered, tumbling drum sounds. And the way it evolves after that break down into a dance vibe. Don’t even get me started about the piano where he’s playing the strings with a guitar pick.
Try this song, then throw the whole album on (the bonus version has all sorts of treats) and read about his contribution. Here’s an excerpt from the accompanying book on “Think Twice” that Okay Player published. RIP Dilla.