Boomkat Product Review:
J Dilla's 'Ruff Draft' has quite rightly become the thing of hip-hop folklore - with his untimely death providing the impetus for Stones Throw to dust off the masters and reissue it as a bonus drenched double set. An aural missing link that provides a thrilling insight into the sonic jump Dilla made from his early work as part of Slum Village and production whizz for A Tribe Called Quest, Common, The Pharcyde and De La Soul, over to the experimental and technically intense oeuvre which marked his collaborative venture with Madlib. Where there was once dust-in-sunlight vibes, suddenly there was somersaulting synths and surgical strike electronics - all buffering the raw cut stance of the new Dilla. Opening with a spoken word prologue from Dilla himself where he explains 'Ruff Draft' is for "DJs that play that live shit and wanna bounce in your whip", things get underway properly through the thumping 'Let's Take It Back'. Trickling into the conscious with something that resembles Vangelis, the initially supine atmosphere is gleefully shattered when Dilla drops an angular beat of perfect density that punctures the cranium to maximum, dope effect. Clicking onwards you'll next be privy to the back-track rhythms and dramatic soundscapes of 'Reckless Driving' - a tune that could be straight from the pages of Yancey's Madlib hook-up as marble mouthed vocals stop and start over the perfectly poised r-e-p-e-a-t backing (look out for the source of a craft Timbaland theft...). Elsewhere, 'Nothing Like This' serves up a beautifully warped vocal sample that fades into reverb drenched oblivion, 'Crushin' (Yeeeeaah!)' belies Dilla's recent move to the West Coast, whilst 'The $' is a bounding cask of electro-bass and tooth-pick vocals. An astonishing record whether taken in complete isolation or placed in context, 'Ruff Draft' just gets better as Stones Throw pitch in a full plate of previously unreleased instrumentals and a quad of new vocal cuts to be getting on with. A ruff diamond.