Hip-hop lives forever in the creeping shadow of death, whether via its endlessly mourned pantheon of fallen greats, or the ghostly voices and rhythms sampled by enterprising beatsmiths. So maybe it isn't surprising that Jay Dee's death in February has done little to slow down his legendary career. On the contrary, he's having one of his best years to date, landing beats on Busta Rhymes and Ghostface's much-hyped albums, releasing a critically acclaimed instrumentalist album (Donuts) on Stones Throw, and getting eulogized extensively on The Roots' stellar Game Theory.
J Dilla's strange posthumous winning streak continues with The Shining, an album finished by frequent collaborator Karriem Riggins. The disc serves as a follow-up to Jay Dee's rapturously received producer's album Welcome To Detroit, but where that disc featured a slew of up-and-coming Detroit artists rhyming over Dilla's beats, The Shining brims with star power courtesy of guests Black Thought, D'Angelo, Pharoahe Monch, Madlib, and Common (who guests on two tracks). The Shining is the album Detroit wanted to be when it grew up.
The Shining begins with Busta Rhymes playing hype-man over what sounds like "Flight Of The Bumblebee" being played on kazoos, indelibly re-establishing Dilla's credentials as a sonic mad scientist. Tracks like "Baby" and "Love" point toward hyper-soul with their endlessly repeated vocal samples, while "So Far To Go" and "Dime Piece" take Dilla's signature sound, with its woozy sideways melodies and the wiggiest drums this side of Timbaland, into smoothed-out lover-man territory. The Shining's biggest flaw is that it feels awfully slight, thanks to a run time of less than 37 minutes. Then again, maybe that's appropriate; in every conceivable way, Dilla left fans hungry for more.