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Madlib’s Beat Konducta series of instrumental albums began as a series of beat-tapes handed out to artists like De La Soul and Talib Kweli, and then soon ending up in the hands of fans. Given official release through Stones Throw, each volume has been released in pairs, with volumes 1 & 2 aka Movie Scenes built around obscure film score samples, and volumes 3 & 4 aka In India, sampling crate-dug breaks from a different continent entirely. With his latest fifth and sixth entries into the series, Madlib, along with partner J-Rocc, pay homage to the late great J. Dilla – who’s name mysteriously doesn’t appear in the title (perhaps due to legal reasons), A Tribute To….

Many have paid their respects to J. Dilla since his passing, whether it be Busta Rhymes who released a series of unreleased collaborations via the internet, or The Roots, who closed out their 2006 Game Theory LP with “Can’t Stop This”, posthumously produced by the late great Jay Dee. Madlib has chosen to celebrate Dilla’s legacy with his new Beat Konductor instrumental release, a 42-track magnum opus created in the style of Donuts.

The album opens with “For My Mans (Prelude)”, a heartfelt tribute utilizing a classic Don Blackman sample, looping the lyrics “Since You Been Away So Long”, as a sampled narrator thanks Dilla for his contributions to music, perfectly capturing the sound of Jay Dee. Many other moments attempt to do the same, channeling different moments in his career, whether the Ummah era (“Floating Soul”), the Jaylib champion sound (“Dirty Hop”), or the blunted soul of Donuts (“Dillalade Ride”). All of this, is laid beneath the sampled adlibs of J. Dilla from earlier recording sessions, as Madlib does his best to carry the on the sound of James Yancey.

Later in the album, another familiar moment comes with “All Love (The Movement)”, last utilized on The Roots’ & Common’s “Act Too”, giving the sample a whole new meaning in light of Dilla’s passing. To the trained ear, there’s many more hidden homages to Dilla within the music, however most average listeners will not pick up on them. While done in the style of Donuts – a truly a fitting tribute – Beat Konducta 5 & 6 lacks the hypnotic rhythm of it’s inspiration. Donuts had a haunting method to it’s madness, which even to this day plays without missing a beat, embedded into the consciousness of hundreds of thousands of fans. While this release attempts to do that, its randomness never achieves the same result. Props are due to Madlib for paying tribute to his friend and collaborator, but ultimately this release proves there is only one J. Dilla. – D.T. Swinga

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