20 January 2014

In Case You Missed It: Yancey Boys - Sunset Blvd

     Sunset Blvd. is probably one of the best posthumous releases of J Dilla's music to date. After listening to countless projects featuring what seemed like artists using any Jay Dee beat they could get their hands on, I was somewhat conflicted about this release. Don't get me wrong, I respect Dilla's work. I understand his talent and what he brought to the game. There are a slew of tracks that he produced that I still rock to this day. Having said that, I haven't really been feeling too many of his posthumous releases.

There, I said it.

     It just felt like after his passing, there was this mad dash to release projects featuring his music, even if it was with beats that had been used multiple times over. There were even instances where you'd have to wonder if the featured emcee was even doing a Dilla track it's due justice. Be honest, you know you heard a few.

Enter Frank Nitt and Illa J.

     Frank Nitt is another shining example of the undeniable talent Detroit has a history of creating. Frank can always be counted on to deliver lyrically, especially when it comes to some Dilla productions. A few of Frank's credits include being one-half of the crew Frank-n-Dank and a solo career that includes working with such greats as Madlib, DJ Quik, and Oh No. Those of you that know of Frank Nitt know that I speak the truth. For those of you that don't, now is a good time to get familiar.

     One of the many surprises on this album is Illa J. Honestly, I expected Nitty to lyrically carry the majority of the album with Illa J dropping mediocre 16s  throughout and using his status as Jay Dee's brother to carry him through. Turns out, Illa has evolved a great deal since his initial solo release, which was also titled Yancey Boys. Whatever kinks he needed to work on to find his zone he has done in spades. Instead of leaning heavily on Nitt to deliver, Illa has instead stepped his game up. Take the track The Throwaway for example. In the track Illa acknowledges he is famous because of his brother but he is here now because of his work. If this was truly a throwaway beat for Dilla then I can't even imagine what the keepers sound like.

     In listening to the album as a whole, you can definitely hear elements from hip hop songs you remember from way back, as well as tracks you hear today. Listen to the song Jeep Volume. Personally, I don't know when Jay Dee made these beats but the latest they could have been composed was in 2006 (R.I.P.). To put it into perspective, these beats, that still sound like they were made fairly recent, are easily 8-10 years old. That is the impact of Dilla's work.

     The beats on this album alone are cause for excitement. If that wasn't enough, this album features a slew of guest spots including: Detroit massives T3 and Guilty Simpson, current heavy hitter Talib Kweli, and even greats like Posdunos (De La Soul), SlimKid3 (Pharcyde), and Common. The Yancey Boys definitely didn't need such big names, but the fact that they contributed to this project speaks o how good this album is.
Put all these things together with time tested Frank Nitt and the newfound skill in Illa J and what you end up with is a dope album from start to finish with plenty of replay value.

     In my opinion, Sunset Blvd. is the best crafted use of Dilla's beats since The Shining back in 2006. Not only does this album give access to beats only a few had heard until this point, but the way Frank and Illa breathe life into each of these tracks make this album a complete experience. I definitely recommend this one; especially for those that still need an introduction to the almighty Jay Dee.


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