Boomkat Product Review:
When Ruff Draft saw its initial release in 2003, J Dilla possessed production skills on par with anyone in hip-hop – technically and creatively. “At the top of his game,” says longtime friend and collaborator, Karriem Riggins.
"After years of building while modestly deferring to others of both greater and lesser notoriety, Dilla finally completed the first solo endeavor on his own label, entirely on his own terms. Prior to recording the EP, Dilla found himself at a crossroads. Estranged from his label, MCA, and separated from the mother of his youngest daughter, frustration abounded both personally and professionally. Dilla spent parts of 2002 and 2003 working on an album for MCA that featured his rapping over contributions from other producers with whom he had connected and whose music he respected. At the time, he was known primarily for his beats, yet reviled for his MCing by most anyone not from his hometown of Detroit.
The project was to be an intentional freak of the industry. The project would go on to spur his collaborative album with Madlib, Jaylib, and would first showcase the template that he would take to his greatest heights with 2006’s Donuts. The Stones Throw reissue of Ruff Draft from 2008 featured remixes of the songs from the album, done without Dilla’s involvement. This version of the album takes Dilla’s recently discovered mixes of the album and restores his vision for the project. “Straight from the mothafuckin’ cassette,” as he phrased the sound he was going for on the EP’s intro. The CD issue is buttressed by unreleased tracks and includes the music from the EP as it was originally released, the alternate version that Dilla had for the project and complete instrumentals. Author Ronnie Reese expands upon his original liner notes to further tell Dilla’s story, in a booklet complete with never before published photographs from the Ruff Draft photo session.
This CD issue features first Dilla’s original sequence of the EP and then presents Dilla’s alternate sequence, with tracks unreleased in 2003, as well as instrumentals. Author Ronnie Reese expansively details Dilla’s trajectory at this crucial point in his career, in a booklet complete with never before published photographs from the Ruff Draft photo session. Ruff Draft, like The Diary, sees release on the Pay Jay, the official imprint of the Estate of James Yancey, founded on behalf of Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, John “Illa J” Yancey, Monica and Ty-monae Whitlow, Joylette Hunter and Ja’mya Yancey. The producer’s own mixes – recently rediscovered of his seminal EP, presented in the original issued and alternate sequence."