The legacy of the late J Dilla is far-reaching, from inspired beats/visions to inane tributes, spin-offs and shout-outs. The new installment of Madlib’s Beat Konducta series wavers between both ends of that spectrum, thankfully leaning more heavily toward understated musical influence than verbal love-fest, still never going as far as copping Dilla’s style.
Under the auspices of a "tribute" to Dilla, the 42 tracks that cover Beat Konducta 5 & 6: The Dil Withers and Dil Cosby Suite feature some of Madlib’s most inspired crate-digging and beat maneuvers in the already impeccable series. He gets assistance from producer J Rocc, who, along with Madlib, was one of Jay Dee’s closest confidants in his time in L.A. leading up to his death in 2006.
Even before Dilla’s untimely passing, he and Madlib were inextricably linked. Before the pair made 2003’s excellent Jaylib together, they were already considered in hip-hop circles as leaders of a new generation of independent producers, both equally in their own right. 2006 saw the release of seminal beat CDs from both producers: Madlib’s Movie Scenes, the first full-length under the Beat Konducta pseudonym, and Dilla’s masterpiece, Donuts, released on his 32nd birthday, three days before he died.
In Dilla’s wake, the Beat Konducta has rolled on, providing outlet for some of Madlib’s rawest jams. Arched in conceptual frameworks, Movie Scenes Vol. 1-2 was a collection of alleged soundtrack pieces to imaginary films, while Vol. 3-4 brought the Beat Konducta to India, wherein Madlib masterfully entwined the Bollywood tradition with his patented style. The Dil Suites are more conceptually subtle than Beat Konducta in India, yet a touch more apparent than Movie Scenes. Explicit links are at a minimum, and in general we shouldn’t really go looking for touches of Dilla all over it, but it is nonetheless able to be investigated.
Perhaps in the overall vibe, there are flavors of Jay Dee beat CDs, which have been bootlegged around following his posthumous fame: a laid-back, late-night, cool-out, down-tempo groove. But laid-back, down-tempo and the like are Madlib signatures, so moments that do have textural, timbral or temperamental resemblance to Dilla are still under the distinct operations of Madlib. Sometimes, it gets more specific — ghostly traces of trademarks such as the Dilla Siren or song titles which give way to highly apparent stylistic references.
Album highlights "Sacrifice" or "Dillalade Ride" both embody, whether intentionally or not, the more epic moments of Donuts, with diced piano or strings and a chopped-up, longing croon. An exceptional case of Dilla’s recreation is found on the track "Anthenagain," with a trademark speeding up and slowing down of the beat underneath a single sample is in effect. Some of the track titles hint more overtly, such as "J.B. and J.D.," which points to Dilla’s inspired use of James Brown’s already heavily sampled ouevre, or "Shades of Pete," pointing to Pete Rock’s influence on the new generation of producers.
Despite minimal traces, Madlib’s intention is probably not aimed at an analytical reprise of Dilla’s prowess. The Beat Koducta’s got a personal touch on the board that’s far too distinct. And if the process of building this suite was indeed inspired by Dilla, it more or less comes across to us as a great, laid-back, unassuming beat album, and escapes lofty tribute status, even in its more ethereal moments. Madlib’s approach always seemed a bit looser than Dilla’s, and what that makes for is a deeply varied pastiche of generations and genre’s of beat possibilities.