In November 2012, underground rap purveyors Delicious Vinyl announced a new series of posthumous J Dilla albums from his clearly fruitful vaults. And serving as the project’s lead is longtime friend and collaborator Frank Nitt, one half of Frank N Dank and the official curator of The Lost Scrolls.
At first, everything appeared to be falling into place. When he was alive, Dilla had fantastic chemistry with Nitt and anything was better than the mess that was The Rebirth of Detroit, the most flawed and poorly thrown together project to have Dilla’s name on it. But we remained in high spirits, with that optimism only increasing in December. That’s when the Nitt-featured “The Throwaway” from the first volume of The Lost Scrolls dropped. He and Dilla’s younger brother, Illa J, showcased their feel-good double-time talents across a magnificently produced, highly caffeinated instrumental that was said to stem from Dilla’s work in the ’90s. Plus, Illa spitting about only being popular because he’s Dilla’s lil’ bro is one of the best rap moments of the year so far.
The only downside to “The Throwaway”? It set the standard unfairly high for the remaining three cuts. And as the EP finally made its way to retailers, an additional track hit the web. It was “DeWitt To Do It”, a Dilla jam through-and-through with its clean Rhodes and undeniable groove. But wait: those vocals were so familiar … with good reason: they’re from Welcome 2 Detroit joint “Shake It Down”. So for those keeping score: that’s technically one for two. If you’re going to slap “previously unreleased” on a track and give it a different title, it better be completely new.
As for the two other tracks, you have Dilla at perhaps his loosest on “Smack a Bitch”, a cut that, at first blow, is a cringe-worthy slab of misogyny-rap. But upon repeated listens (and with some research), you’ll realize that it’s merely an off-the-cuff play on Eric B. & Rakim classic “Eric B for President”. Sure, the lyrical content could have less painful—to be fair, Dilla proudly professed his pimp-like ways every chance he got—but look: it’s 47 seconds long and it’s mostly harmless. “Ruff and Rugged” follows the same lead, though its purely instrumental and sounds straight from Dilla’s MPC. It’s just as the title implies: ruff and rugged with a strong dose of rawness.
If we are to believe the promise that more 10″ pseudo-EPs of this ilk are on the way, then Dilla fans can surely rejoice. Should they remain at this quality, sans re-purposed tracks like “DeWitt To Do It”, they’ll serve as a worthy means of milking your checking account. However, if you’re new to his discography and only heard, say, Donuts and portions of his other LPs, quickly move along. To paraphrase’s Dilla’s spoken-word Ruff Draft intro, this is “For my real n***as only.”