If you listened to a lot of hip hop in the 1990s, you probably heard J Dilla’s beats. He produced tracks for A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, as well as his own group Slum Village.
His mother has curated this incredible box set called The King of the Beats, which collects a bunch of his unreleased beats on four 10″ records, a cassette tape, and a 3.5″ floppy disc.
Let’s start with the box itself. The box is made of lightweight wood, so it’s very sturdy but not unreasonably heavy. It’s made to look like the SP 1200 drum machine/sampler. Jay Dee must have loved his SP 1200. He raps or talks about it on several tracks.
When you open it, you’ll see that they cared enough to pack bubble wrap inside to protect the contents in shipping. Speaking of shipping, the set comes in a custom box with a styrofoam holder to keep the box from getting dinged, even if the shipping carton is slightly damaged.
A foam tray holds the everything in place. Note the cutaways you can allow you to easily remove the contents.
The four 10″ LPs contain 40 tracks from J Dilla’s “Batches” series. The images on the fronts are kind of blurry, but the image is apparent when you put them together. The backs are a puzzle too.
Under the records, we find a Certificate of Authenticity signed by his mom, Ma Dukes, and a short, but nice book with a couple of essays and some great pictures.
The tape contains a totally finished song. Make sure you put it back with the tape side facing the left, so you don’t touch the tape when you get it out of the box next time.
Don’t forget the 3.5″ floppy disc. For you younger folks, it’s kind of like a big flat USB drive. It contains all the multi-tracks for an un-released J Dilla production. All you need is an SP 1200 to play it back!
This detail of the front of the box shows what a 3.5″ disc drive used to look like.
How about the records? Record one was pretty quiet, with only a little surface noise. It begins with a rough recording of J Dilla talking about his SP 1200 over a beat. What stands out immediately is his big punchy snare sound, which you can hear all through this side. A lot of these recordings are finished tracks, with bass lines and everything. All that’s missing is an MC. If you’re not up to it, you can enjoy these tracks as they are
In short, this is a great set, produced like only a mom could. There aren’t very many hip hop box sets out there, so let’s hope this starts a trend.