Updated: Oct 2, 2018
“Donuts and Ice Cream”, my tribute to J Dilla’s “Donuts” album took longer than I thought but it's finally complete.
I discovered J Dilla’s Donuts in 2014, many years too late. It fundamentally altered my perspective on the role of music and the place of the producer. Dilla’s ability to chop samples reminded that sampling is itself an art form -- a form of unparalleled (re)creation. In particular, Donuts stood out to me as a lasting testament of Dilla’s prowess. I realized while listening to it that I had grown up learning to sample from people (like Kanye and Madlib) who were striving to be like Dilla. Put simply, I was a Nigerian kid who had always been working in the shadow of Dilla.
I originally decided in 2015 to release an EP of music centered around Donuts. I called it Donuts & Coffee, because I wanted to play with the fact that my complexion is dark. The goal was to take all the original samples from Donuts, re-sample them, and make completely new beats. However, it wasn’t until October 2017, though, that I began earnestly working on what would become Donuts and Ice Cream.
The title Donuts and Ice Cream emerged from a conversation with my friends Shanna and Chris on our way to hike Blood Mountain in North Georgia. We laughed at the fact that the pairing of both desserts was odd but surprisingly pleasurable. I found it fitting to name the record after my favorite dessert and Dilla’s as well.
The album took 9 months to complete, and had many stops and starts. I was struck at times with intense feelings of self-doubt. I initially attempted to emulate Dilla’s style, and consistently failed. Moreover, I wrestled with the fact that none of my beats sounded as good as Dilla’s. I pressed through these feelings, out of desperation. I eventually finished the bulks of the beats while on vacation in Stockholm in the summer of 2018.
Now that Donuts and Ice Cream is complete, I am able to reflect on the journey more clearly. As I look back on it, I realize that my initial frustrations were necessary. They taught me two lessons. First, Dilla’s genius cannot be replicated or re-produced, and I will always stand in his shadow. Second, Dilla’s gift to me (and you) is the challenge to create new music that pushes the envelope. Donuts and Ice Cream, with its blend of soul samples, trap drums, and EDM influences, is my (humble) response to Dilla’s originary proclamation.
My hope for others, is that they will continue the legacy of creation that Dilla left for us. This may take the form of homage like Leonard Charles’ Basement Donuts, or entirely unrelated creations. Irregardless, Dilla’s legacy reverberates through time and challenges us to create. More to the point, Dilla’s music and life admonishes us to use the (little) time we have to enjoy life. Perhaps, we’ll do this with a donut in one hand, and an ice cream cone in the other.