Read J Dilla's Donuts by Jordan Ferguson Online


From a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James "J Dilla" Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beatmakers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as "hip hop music" is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeousFrom a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James "J Dilla" Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beatmakers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as "hip hop music" is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeous and heartbreaking the next. The samples and melodies tell the story of a man coming to terms with his declining health, a final love letter to the family and friends he was leaving behind. As a prolific producer with a voracious appetite for the history and mechanics of the music he loved, J Dilla knew the records that went into constructing Donuts inside and out. He could have taken them all and made a much different, more accessible album. If the widely accepted view is that his final work is a record about dying, the question becomes why did he make this record about dying?Drawing from philosophy, critical theory and musicology, as well as Dilla's own musical catalogue, Jordan Ferguson shows that the contradictory, irascible and confrontational music found on Donuts is as much a result of an artist's declining health as it is an example of what scholars call "late style," placing the album in a musical tradition that stretches back centuries....

Title : J Dilla's Donuts
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781623561833
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 152 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

J Dilla's Donuts Reviews

  • Ben Winch
    2019-02-24 02:09

    J Dilla is everything I love about hip-hop. Donuts is his gift to the hip-hop community, who’ll be rapping over this for years. Dilla reminds us: anyone with a thorough knowledge of black American music in the 20th century has a great education in music. A golden age, which hip-hop, by recognising and celebrating it as such, manages to repurpose and perpetuate. Donuts is a genius curation: 1-2 minute potent edits, exquisite in themselves, that (a) suggest a future, and (b) send us back to the past. At it’s best (“Two Can Win”, “Stop”, “Last Donut of the Night”) it’s thrilling, heartbreaking, exhilerating. This happened – the grassroots uprising of soulful virtuosity that brought us jazz, blues, soul, funk – it flourished and passed. But Donuts, a time machine, gives it back. I’ll admit to getting Donuts kind of late. In England in 2010, someone I loved recommended it, but I never quite settled into it. Maybe my life was too slow; I preferred to luxuriate in Coltrane’s Crescent or Bitches’ Brew outtakes on the endless-seeming winter busrides through Wythenshawe to my job at Manchester Airport. But now, with new relationship, 3 stepkids, studies, writing, music all bubbling at once on the stove of my attention, the 2-minute salvos of Donuts suit me to the ground – little shots of love and adrenalin and wide-eyed possibility that, maybe, could only have come from a guy about to be dead. (Check his plethora of other instrumentals, mostly released since his death, and see if you can find anything that breaks the rules like this does.) It’s a bag of seeds, barely cultivated, whatever he could gather in a hurry, but worked with skilful vigour so it suggests near-infinite outgrowths. Composed – so legend has it – in a hospital bed with a turntable, a sampler and some 45s gifted by his friends, Donuts is state-of-the-art love of music and community. Dilla, Detroit son of an opera singer and a jazz bassist, with perfect pitch at 2 and his own turntable at 4, is a musical appreciator of genius. Why did Dilla make Donuts? Love of music, plain and simple. A more authentic work of deep reverence and respect I doubt you’ll find. RIP, Jay Dee. Two Can Win. We all can.(Re the book, it’s informative, told me a lot I didn’t know and was glad to learn about Detroit hip-hop. It didn’t say a lot about the making of Donuts but there may not be much to say. If you love Dilla I recommend it.)

  • Jeff
    2019-03-20 01:04

    You can learn a bit of history of Detroit hip-hop, and a bit about J. Dilla's history, but that's about it. Most of this book is an exercise in intellectual self-gratification, using the Donuts album as fodder. Lots of pages that try to draw from philosophy, literature, psychology, and other fields in an attempt to explain Dilla's work . The author spends an entire chapter writing about himself, as he tries to justify writing a book like this. If you're seeking to learn about J. Dilla's approach to sound and music, I don't recommend reading this book.

  • Matt
    2019-03-12 04:02

    The 33 1/3 books have always struck me as a brilliant idea with somewhat spotty execution. The books generally follow the same formula: analyzing a seminal album in 100-200 pages of insight, interpretations, and/or the historical context of the work. Each book is penned by a different author with a different approach, so naturally there is considerable variation in quality. As someone who really likes to dig into albums deserving of such mental exertion, I much enjoyed the books where everything works (like Ben Sisario's excellent take on Doolittle) and was considerably disappointed by some of the more needlessly abstruse (OK Computer) or autobiographical (Wowee Zowee) installments. Thankfully, Toronto freelance journalist Jordan Ferguson's examination of J Dilla's 2006 album Donuts is a well-organized and illuminating read on one of the best instrumental hip-hop albums ever.Donuts is a scattershot collection of beats that jumps from one idea to the next and pulls the rug out from the listener just when they are getting comfortable. It makes for a great listen, but thankfully Donuts the book is comprehensive and fully-developed. Ferguson follows the popular 33 1/3 format of beginning with historical background and the artist's career progression leading up to the album before delving into its actual content. Much of the first half of the book consists of an extended biography of Dilla and his development as an artist. The book draws from a wide array of interviews, articles, videos, and other sources on Dilla as well as the history of the Detroit music scene. The strongest point of Donuts is Ferguson's comprehensive research. Dilla fans may already be familiar with some of the anecdotes and interviews referenced in Donuts (which is to be expected to some extent), but there is likely quite a bit of new material unless you have seen every YouTube video, Frank-N-Dank DVD extra, and read every random article on Dilla. The book greatly benefits from the fact that Dilla (and his mother, who is also featured prominently) was very revealing and engaging in his interviews. He goes into considerable detail on his craft, philosophy, and his personal history and artistic evolution. Ferguson also conducted some original interviews while writing the book. He got time with Eothen "Egon" Alapatt, the former general manager of Stones Throw Records who was instrumental in releasing Donuts as well as Stones Throw art director Jeff Jank. These provide additional insight into Dilla's personality and how Donuts came together.Ferguson focuses on the album in the latter third of the book. He is a very attentive listener, pointing out small yet important details of the album. I've listened to the album countless times and I never realized that while the album concludes with a reprise of the introduction, there is a stutter that causes a jerky transition between the two. Fergsuon goes on to explain how this plays into Dilla's affinity for samples with "mistakes" in them. Many hip-hop reviews turn into extended lists of sample sources possibly to flex their sampling knowledge muscles/Googling proficiency, and this risk is clearly elevated when dealing with an instrumental album like Donuts. There is a point to every sample Ferguson points out, whether it is to highlight Dilla's eclectic (I had no idea he was a Stereolab fan) musical tastes or his knack for seamlessly integrating disparate sources into his beats. While Ferguson rightfully heaps Dilla with a ton of (much-deserved) praise, especially with his gift for rhythm and drum programming, need for constant innovation, and disregard for the conventional rules of hip-hop production, Ferguson never enters mindless fawning territory, another common misstep in 33 1/3 books. He is refreshingly even-handed throughout, noting (also much-deserved) critical swipes at his rapping ability and some weaker moments in his discography. Ferguson's passion for his subject is evident throughout and he is clearly very knowledgeable about sampling and hip-hop music in general.In SumDonuts is definitely one of my favorite entries in the 33 1/3 series and is a worthwhile read for any fan of the album. There are a few brief passages where Ferguson rambles a bit on critical theory but in general he held my interest throughout and offered a hefty bit of background on and more reasons to appreciate one of my favorite albums of the last decade.8/10

  • Kaleb Miears
    2019-03-05 01:01

    An interesting read for any hip-hop fan. Jordan Ferguson does a good job of recalling the life of arguably the most iconic person in hip-hop's most iconic album. As a Dilla fan, I appreciate some of the insight on his life and the things that he did for the music industry. I'd recommend to any audiophile.

  • J Name
    2019-03-11 02:59

    4 1/2 stars. Very great essay. An easy read for a lot of good content in this book. I look forward to reading more 33 1/3 books.

  • Chris
    2019-02-21 22:18

    This is not the book I expected. Though, honestly, I don't quite know what I expected.My favorite part about the 33 1/3 series is that each one is so drastically different that it's hard to get a "bead" on how the series will work.This one focuses quite a bit on the general context and history of the artist J Dilla, aka Jay Dee. That, of course, wraps up much of it with the history of modern hip hop, which was perfect for me. (I recently finished HIP-HOP EVOLUTION on Netflix and wished it had carried into more modern times. This book seemed to pick up, in many ways, where that series left off.)I didn't know much about Dilla or this album. I'd tracked it down and listened to it a few times prior to reading this book, but nothing struck me as "amazing" or particularly noteworthy. However, Fergusson provided the appropriate context and discussed the life of this artist, which truly gave weight to the album itself.That being said, there isn't much about the album itself. There are a few references here, and one of the last chapters does a nice job analyzing the mood and style of the various tracks in comparison with Dilla's life. So, if there is one complaint, it's that it really is more about the artist than the album. Those looking for a huge focus on DONUTS will be disappointed. For those like me, though, who didn't know much about J Dilla--or, honestly, much about hip-hop's recent history--this makes for a great read about an extremely talented artist whose life was cut too short.

  • Andrew Guthrie
    2019-03-18 03:00

    It was most appropriate reading Jordan Ferguson's "Donuts" back to back with this series' release about Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", as both albums deal in part with the cross-genre classification of "Musique concrète", but obviously from two different and noteworthy angles."Donuts" became one of my favourite books in this series, but like all musical inclinations, there is probably a very subjective reason for this that at this moment I am unable to explicate beyond saying that I thought Ferguson displayed a touching sensitivity to the subject that had him talking to/interviewing some of the actual players while also deftly incorporating "high theory" or intellectual touchstones such as Kubler-Ross' "On Death and Dying".Ferguson also gets down to it by identifying the source material (samples) for many of the tracks on "Donuts" while also detailing Jay Dee's unique production methods that set him apart (far apart) from his competitors. In fact, we see that Jay Dee was quite willing to reverse direction, break the inherent rules of Hip Hop sampling and production (which, at one point, are nicely laid out by Ferguson), and eventually back off from "the mainstream" (where he was clearly headed with its attendant financial compensations) and reattach himself to "the underground".The book (and Jay Dee's "Donuts") also carries a heavy dose of melancholy or remorse seeing as it will forever be attached to Dilla's demise (his death from a rare blood disease). Ferguson even posits the question as to "Donuts" ultimate value given this unavoidable reference point, but again, the author does this with much sensitivity which at once acknowledges his distance from the original source while nevertheless making it clear that he is deeply influenced by the music.

  • Emily
    2019-02-26 03:14

    somewhat surprisingly, given my propensity towards arcane trivia about the music i love, this is the first 33 1/3 book i've actually read, despite being aware of the series for some time now. the simple, defining factor of the series is that anyone can submit a proposal - all you need to show is that you have the knowledge and critical skill to deal with a great piece of music. and, obviously, as a result all the books are written by different people. all i can say is that if they're all as comprehensive, well-researched and critically intelligent as jordan ferguson's take on dilla, then i need to pick up some more of these.the book is nominally about "donuts", and whilst ferguson does an excellent analysis of the record itself, examining it as a response to dilla's illness and in the context of his peers, it's just as much a potted history of j dilla. and by extension, a brief look at the artists and detroit culture that nurtured him. the handling of the musical analysis itself is deft, pithy - it would be so easy to slip into purple prose, to make it about ferguson, but he never threatens to cross that line. it's tactful and honest.ferguson just absolutely nails it, a perfect balance of meticulous backstory and analysis, acknowledging the fact that the man himself would never look back in this manner, but all the same - what if?

  • Jesus Rodriguez
    2019-03-06 00:10

    Hopefully, this will be the first of many books to celebrate and discuss this album.For anyone who is not familiar with who J Dilla is and wishes to start exploring one of the genius hip hop producers of all time, Ferguson's book is a great primer. I'm always used to reading about music which I did not live at the time it came out so to read this book, for me, was pretty surreal. Ferguson does a great job on giving you background on who J Dilla is, where he came from and why his music touched so many. As with all works of genius, you will probably learn some new things regarding the making of "Donuts". Like with all people who are so talented, there's so much more to discuss, but I really do hope this gets the ball rolling for more scholarship and more in depth info on him.I've been a big fan of Dilla for a long time, so this for me a great tribute. I read this in a couple of hours. I couldn't put it down. One my favorite from the 33 1/3 series so far.

  • Nick Bachman
    2019-03-02 00:15

    The story of J Dilla is one that will continue to be told as future generations continue to be inspired by the unique touch he brought to the art of sampling, hiphop, and production. This book takes you on a lovely journey through dilla's life showing his powerful spirit and what his music did to others in this world. Great looks at detroit and los angeles music communities - Stones throw is all over this and it is great! Helped me to gain a deeper understanding over why the music moves me which is a tall order for writing.

  • Demetria
    2019-03-10 05:08

    As a native Detroiter, it was great to read about so many places and names that are familiar to me and that were staples in my childhood and adolescence. There are some nice, colorful quotes in here from people who knew Dilla well. I found myself skimming some parts though. Some of the bits about psychology and philosophy felt like filler...uninteresting filler. That sounds harsh, but this book was still a mostly enjoyable read.

  • Peter
    2019-03-04 05:20

    Easily my favorite book in the 33 1/3 series. Donuts is one of my favorite albums, and Jordan Ferguson gives an informed, critical interpretation of the work as a whole by placing it in the late style and draws fascinating parallels between various samples and J Dilla's state of mind during the last year of his life through his deteriorating health. Although I love 33 1/3, this book has been the only one that has actually enhanced my appreciation for an album.

  • Christopher
    2019-03-15 21:55

    One of the finer books (and albums) of the series. This is coherent history and analysis that benefits from its informal tone and is, above all, curious about the musician and work. The book is a touch too hagiographic for my tastes, enough to deduct a star, but I don't want to oversell it. This is a great example of what good music criticism can do, equal parts biography and original thinking. Recommended.

  • Sam
    2019-03-07 02:16

    Definitely one of my favorites from the series. It's a perfect introduction to Dilla's music, for those who weren't familiar before picking up the book, and brings Donuts into a number of different thought-provoking thought processes. I never thought about Donuts as a testament of dying and death (described as two different entities in the book), and now, I'm ecstatic to dive back into the album and think about it differently.A huge success for 33 1/3. Read this guy.

  • Jim Lang
    2019-02-22 04:57

    This short book serves as an excellent exploration of J Dilla's masterpiece Donuts. Ferguson blends biography with criticism, describing the circumstances of Dilla's life and career, the making of this album during his protracted illness, and then mining the work for insight into Dilla's mindset at the end of his life. This is a sensitive work of scholarship, and a very engaging read.

  • William Ketchum
    2019-03-14 21:16

    This is a great book, a must-read for any Dilla fan, and for any creative in general. The book serves as a biography of his life and career, an interpretation of Donuts, and surprisingly, a summation of different philosophical ideas of death, and how those ideas may have been manifested throughout Donuts. The book is a short but powerful read.

  • Nathan
    2019-03-14 05:13

    Finally. I'd been waiting for this series to get back on track, and finally Ferguson accomplishes just that. And, I honestly care very little for J Dilla, aside from acknowledging his work. Still, there was a narrative, tightly wound around the story of Donuts, illustrating that one doesn't have to simply toss around their vocabulary to display the love of a great album. Well done.

  • Dan
    2019-03-07 03:06

    could have used more critical theory and less kübler-ross, very fine overallbut i think if you're gonna buy this book you probably don't need to read this book

  • Simon Sweetman
    2019-02-26 02:05

    A great summary of J Dilla's worth - and his efforts - outside of the Donuts album, as well as a very decent analysis and understanding of the making of this beguiling and wonderful collage of nuggets. A must-read for anyone interested in hip-hop, beat-making and great music.

  • Joe
    2019-03-11 01:22

    Good one - lots of context and history, but I wanted a bit deeper dive into the album itself.

  • Brandon Forsyth
    2019-03-19 04:09

    A great read about a famously inaccessible album. Placing the album in the tradition of 'late style' is an interesting idea and one that I'll think about every time I hear Donuts.

  • Rickey
    2019-02-18 01:10

    “Perhaps Jesus sent some of His apostles to Hell to save souls,” said John, “even in the worst of torments, not all is lost.” The idea surprises m...

  • Dane Despres
    2019-03-08 01:58

    Good enough to scratch my Dilla itch, but I would have been preferred if Ferguson had geeked down harder -- and with fewer apologies. Just go in, man!

  • Jamison Spencer
    2019-02-20 00:16

    More about his life story than this one record, but very interesting anyway.

  • Justin de la Cruz
    2019-02-25 22:54

    Real friggin' good.

  • Malcolm Macleod
    2019-03-19 00:57

    an amazing insight to a definitive piece of art.

  • Hamish
    2019-03-13 05:05

    Respectable and loving and in awe of the majesty. Not bogged down with useless padding like a lot a lot of other 33/3 books. Could have used some line editing but who cares! Very well done.

  • Will
    2019-03-03 00:00

    It's not the most remarkable piece of writing...but it's more than good enough to capture the magic of the album.

  • Robert
    2019-03-07 01:16

    It's about time someone wrote about Jay Dee and Ferguson does a first rate job! I'm not going to waste any more time on this review, just get the book ASAP!

  • Sidik Fofana
    2019-03-14 23:16

    SIX WORD REVIEW: Play "Don't Cry". Try not to.