Album Spotlight: J Dilla – Donuts

Nothing from Donuts will ever be performed at a concert.

Time is the donut of the heart.

The track “Lightworks” samples electronic pioneer Raymond Scott, who composed music for Looney Tunes and built some of the earliest synthesizers. His most famous album was called Soothing Sounds for Baby.

Many of the tracks have titular counterparts. “Workinonit” and “Walkinonit”. “Lightworks” and “Airworks”. “Hi.” and “Bye.”

The album was later reissued as a box set of vinyl singles, with some songs sharing sides.

The song “Two Can Win” contradicts itself, with the sampled song repeating “Only one can win.”

Donuts was released on J Dilla’s 32nd birthday and three days before his death of blood disease.

The end of the album flows directly back into the beginning of the first track, looping like a donut.

The album should be played at night, never when the sun is up.

29 of the 31 tracks were recorded from the hospital, using a sampler and a record player J’s friends brought him.

“Searching for music is like searching for God. They’re very similar. There’s an effort to reclaim the unmentionable, the unsayable, the unseeable, the unspeakable, all those things.” – David Bowie

Two tracks from Donuts, “One for Ghost” and “Hi.”, have been sampled in Ghostface Killah songs.

The album begins with “Donuts (Outro)” and ends with “Welcome to the Show,” adding to the nonlinear feeling.

The word “donut” was originally spelled “doughnut,” representing its being made from dough.

Chocolate cake was J’s favorite food.

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck from time, his consciousness drifting randomly between past, present, and future. This album is that experience.

“Workinonit” is the album’s second and longest track, sampling a song called “The Worst Band in the World”

Dave Chappelle has used “Workinonit” as the theme music for two Netflix standup specials.

J was once a junior police cadet. In 2001 he released a song called “Fuck the Police”.

Donuts frequently cuts off its sampled singers in the middle of a word, treating their voices as instruments to produce sound rather than sources of meaning.

At times J Dilla’s hands would swell up painfully from his blood condition, preventing him from working on the album. His mother would massage his fingers so he could continue to mix.

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou

The track “Time: The Donut of the Heart” samples a guitar riff from a Jackson 5 song, bending its reverb-filled sound to point down rather than up.

A donut is not a meal but a small snack. It is a circle that goes around forever, with enough sugar to distract you from the void at its center.

In a world that never was, J Dilla’s song with Busta Rhymes, Nas, and Biggie Smalls was released to adoring fame instead of being shelved before completion.

During the production of the album, no one other than Dilla was allowed to listen to the unfinished cuts. He became furious when his mother broke that rule when he was on dialysis.