Posthumous albums get a bad rap. And, 99 percent of the time, there is a great reason for that. Just look at 2pac’s after-death legacy, though it’s tough to call it a legacy as it’s more like the opposite of that. While it’s obvious he recorded hundreds of hooks and verses in his shortened existence, he kept those unreleased because they were likely not up to snuff. But they came out anyway and very few of those tracks were worth listening to more than once.
Thus, the apprehension in getting overly excited for a new J Dilla album is more than understandable. The man was clearly a talented producer during his time on this planet and many of the beats on here indicate that. But, like with all deceased artists, he obviously had no say in this record, so it feels less like a true Dilla album and more like a loose collection. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened here. Sure, many beats are worth breaking your neck over. And a handful of the guest features are well-worth at least a dozen spins. But as a whole, Jay $tay Paid just doesn’t hit as hard as it could and should.
And the biggest problem on here rears its ugly head on several tracks featuring rappers as well as a handful of instrumentals. It’s just not possible to get that into “Dilla Bot vs. The Hybrid”, “Smoke”, and “Fire Wood Drumstix”. All three are brought down by average Dilla beats and dull verses from Danny Brown, Blu, and DOOM, respectively. While it makes sense that Blu and Danny Brown aren’t exactly at home over those beats, DOOM’s flawed performance is just confusing. As for the instrumentals, the weak links, such as “9th Caller” and “CaDILLAc”, aren’t thrilling because they either sound recycled or unfinished, with the latter being a major issue with the album in general.
But that’s not always the case. There are plenty of beats to break your neck to, like the trippy-as-hell and experimental “Milk Money” and “In The Night/While You Slept (I Crept)”. And any sucker for piano-loops will absolutely love “10,000 Watts”. It’s also not hard to picture a gutter rapper spitting braggadocio over the half-acid-trip, half-street-anthem “I Told Y’all”. With that in mind, it was basically meant to be for Lil’ Fame to absolutely murder “Blood Sport”, a track charged by beat- and flow-changes from the M.O.P. member and Dilla. The same goes for “24K Rap”, one of this album’s best, which has Raekwon and Havoc spitting hungry verses over a beat that can only be described as ridiculously dope. The only exception to this more rugged rule is “Reality Check”. Although Dilla isn’t firing on all cylinders, he is carried by Black Thought’s witty and sarcastic rundown of reality television.
J$P’s strengths might outweigh its weaknesses, but it’s just not enough. As a whole, this album feels far too long at a mere 60 minutes runtime. And anyone who isn’t a Dilla T-shirt wearing beat-head won’t exactly be won over by many of the beats on here. This might be a “good” record by comparison, but it just doesn’t stack up to Dilla’s impressive legacy.