Many of my friends and the people who read my writing know that my favourite musical genre is hip hop. It has been since middle school or so when I first heard a rapper from my hometown called Drake (don’t you love how predictable sentences like that are – it’s like you know the ending just by the beginning.) But, Drake is not my favourite – though he’s certainly one of them.
A great part of hip hop is how versatile it can be. Like many great musical genres, a whole slew of people can bring a whole slew of talents, interests, and outlooks to rap and you still feel as though it is authentic. There are certainly arguments to be made vis a vis cultural appropriation but genuine rap argues for its own place regardless of who makes it or how.
Genuine rap is almost best exemplified by J Dilla. And specifically his album Donuts, which was released in 2006.
The album has been described by more intelligent, diligent and worthy writers than me plus I don’t really wanna tell you. That being said, it has a way of combining the confusion and simultaneous joy that suffuses life. I don’t know the technical mastery that must’ve gone into such a work. But also, I don’t know that that matters. The beauty sort of spills into you.
At first it seems like a mumble of sounds approximately 30 mins in length.
Then it doesn’t.
I was riding the streetcar home from work yesterday, it was the 504 – one of those new ones with the huge windows. The whole time, as we rode along King St, I watched the images which passed along, the men and women in business attire, then those who had a cushy job and lived downtown. Then I saw the highrises, the bustling beauty of Parkdale and I sort of realized how good a metaphor for this album my ride home was.
What connects the power and shakers with the down and out? What connects the sounds of Dilla’s Donuts?
And yet Toronto, and that album exist all th same. They have no real connection except that they have been connected. And are now seen in connection with one another.