So: it's Yeezmas Eve. In less than 24 hours, the live stream of Yeezy Season 3 will begin. Will the new album Totally Love Ornate Panties debut there? Is it even finished? Is he in his fire emoji recording both right now?? At the absolute very least, will we finally get a CDQ of "Wolves", ending the almost year-long insane desperate history? Ahh, who knows, who knows. Oh, I guess now it's called The Life of Pablo and we have a final tracklisting!! And this lucky guy won some Yeezys!! I love this title. I talked about how meaningful I thought the "I feel like Pablo..." lines were before, and this even greater focus fills me with a nervous energy that's simply thrilling.
But today is also a solemn day: it marks a decade since the passing of the legendary J Dilla. Have you noticed that even among the most fervent militia-type Kanye fans, the claim they always make is that Kanye is one of the greatest producers of all time? It's never just the greatest. That's cause they know that Ye himself would never stand for that, wouldn't stand to have his name superseding Dilla's in any respect. Like look at his production credits, that's like... all the good songs, all the ones everyone loves. And then you scroll up and wow, it's a discography of beloved instrumental tapes! It almost seems like a joke. Ten years is long enough to divorce us a bit from the humanity a bit, leaving us just with the legacy that seems impossible, and it's sometimes surprising when we see the Dilla the person. It can be almost painfully touching at times. Like here's a good video of Flea talking about his love of Ruff Draft.
And here's a deep cut from what seems to be a strangely under-appreciated classic in his discog, Champion Sound, where he teams up with Madlib, another contender from the GOAT producer crown, perhaps the only one as deep as Dilla in the crates. Unlike most of their work, Champion Sound has them actually rapping over their own beats, in a sort of "why not?" fun-loving attitude, and also a sense of boldness, where they went to a place beyond where rappers could go, to a place only they knew.
This song itself is about that feeling, as they both reminisce on their histories of music making and appreciation. There's this sense of timeless nostalgia, where you look on at past behavior knowing that, in the future, you'll look on the present with the same feeling. It is either a terrible or beautiful feeling, and the creative energy they capture here isn't without a deepening tinge of melancholy... the conflation of vinyl and drug addiction is silly enough to not be strictly depressing, but they mean something by it.
The addiction, though, has produced something beautiful here. Just listen to this beat, listen to all the things going on, there's too many to count, and each surely has a history as rich as the sound itself... Like that hypnotic, endless, bassline? Look at where it came from, huh??? How did he figure that out? Or that little collection of samples at the end? How did he assemble that? How did he make it so wacky and fun but also so genuinely pleasant to listen to? My favorite, though, has to be the steel drums 4 seconds in... such a surprising, refreshing sound, so simple, and yet it sets the tone for the whole song, it seems to have all the genius of Dilla wrapped up into it. Ten years gone, and it still feels like a gift, still a thrill to unwrap.