Jay Dee aka J Dilla is known as a producer's producer and was often compared to the likes of DJ Premier and Kanye West. He is a little known character in the Hip Hop world but was responsable for such master works as The Pharcyde's Running and De La Soul's Stakes Is High. His is a story of unrelenting dedication and a story who's end came far too soon - both for him and hip hop. He suffered from illness for many years, performing in a wheelchair towards the end of his career, and finally died just days after his 32nd birthday.
The Shining was the album he was working on when he died and just before the end he passed it on to fellow Detroit producer and long time friend Karriem Riggins. It is a mouthwatering line up featuring Common, Busta Rhymes and Madlib but despite this it is a very disjointed whole. This is to be expected considering the circumstances but when it's good it's great. It would be a crime to give some of these guys a whack beat and Dilla dutifully lays down a beauty for Common on E=MC2. Common is at his best when rhyming over hard and funky rhythms and that is what he gets here. At a glance the best cuts here are the "Love" songs. Love Jones is an all too short instrumental ditty from the man himself, Love featuring Pharoahe Monch is a classic soul groove, Jungle Love is a low down, dirty, beat driven grime-fest featuring MED and Guilty Simpson where we get the priceless line " I got hoe's like firemen." In an album that frequently sways into mushy RnB, Jungle Love has enough dick and hoe boasting to see us through. The last "Love" song is Black Thought's masterfull Love Movin'. The complex clicky beat is like nothing you've ever heard and it flows with the greatest of ease to the hard hitting vocals of The Roots front-man.
Unfortunately these moments are broken up by some less than perfect and often week cuts like the shocking collaboration between Common and D'Angelo and Busta Rhymes' testosterone filled opener that sounds more like a Richard Prior sketch. It's not enough to ruin this great artist's final work, however it does suggest, annoyingly so, what The Shining could have been if Dilla had been allowed to see it through.