Elevate Difference

Jay Stay Paid

Throughout his short career renowned hip hop producer, DJ, and rapper J Dilla (a.k.a. James Dewitt Yancey) maintained a vault of unreleased tracks. Three years after passing away from Lupus-related complications, a sampling of his unfinished work has been compiled into a full-length album, a project helmed by his mother (known as "Ma Dukes") and acclaimed producer Pete Rock. The twenty-eight tracks are plucked from different periods in history, spanning from the start of the decade when Dilla collaborated with powerhouse producer Madlib, to tracks written near the end of his career from his hospital bed.

Jay Stay Paid features a variety of beats, most of them clocking in at under two minutes. Influences are diverse; tracks like "I Told Y'all" and "CaDILLAc" are reminiscent of Wu Tang Clan's gritty street stylings, and "Blood Sport" is dance hall friendly. "Mythsyzer," which borrows a voice-over from Busta Rhymes, and "KJay" are experimental tracks that call to mind Dilla's previously-released, ethereal hit "Nothing Like This." "Reality Check" is an insightful social commentary that features the vocals of Black Thought. It's one of the only tracks on the album that feels complete, and it is indicative of Dilla's sharp and informed style.

Intermixed throughout are DJ voice-overs and radio show dialogue—the album very much feels like a mix tape. While the individual tracks on this album are very, very good, Jay Stay Paid is not an album for the masses. Rather, it is a sort of anthropological study—the legacy of an artist gone too soon. That is not to say that Jay Stay Paid is lacking. The album is very much a J Dilla compilation—every track is fueled with the energy, urgency, and relevancy that propelled Dilla to fame in the first place.

A respectable memorial, Jay Stay Paid pays tribute to Dilla's range of talent and provides a glimpse into what future works of art he could have accomplished had he only been given the chance.

Written by: Cheryl Santa Maria, November 1st 2009