“Let me explain it. It’s Ruff Draft. For my real niggaz only. DJs that play that real live shit. You wanna bounce in your whip, sound like it’s straight from the ma’fuckin’ cassette! Ruff Draft… Let’s do it.”
… Thus begins Ruff Draft. Released only on vinyl in February 2003 with European distribution, this sought-after album remains the elusive key release in J Dilla’s catalog.
Ruff Draft would later prove a turning point in Dilla’s career. He spent the ’90s making a name for himself as an all-around, top-notch hip-hop producer for A Tribe Called Quest, Common and De La Soul, eventually branchÂing ut to work with a variety of heavy-hitters in hip-hop and R&B, including Busta Rhymes, The Roots and Erykah Badu.
In contrast to understated, mellow vibes and minimal, crisp drumbeats he brought to these groups, Ruff Draft first revealed a whole new side to Dilla’s musical genius. Freewheeling, in-your-face synthesizers, and an uncharÂacteristically sample-heavy approach that was as bangin’ as it was experimental.
After Ruff Draft’s limited release, Dilla relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles where he would continue working on tracks for Common’s Be (Geffen, 2005), Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale (Def Jam, 2006), Busta Rhyme’s Big Bang (Aftermath, 2006), and his own material – all of this while dealing with a life threatening illness that was unknown outside his immediate circle.
J Dilla died on February 10, 2006, after suffering for over 2 years from complications of TTP, a rare blood disease, and Lupus. His passing came 3 days after the release of his album Donuts (Stones Throw, 2006). Coverage of his life’s work in Rolling Stone, Spin, XXL, NYTimes, Scratch, Fader, MTV, The Source and his subsequently released The Shining (BBE, 2006), have presented Dilla’s music to countless new fans.
Stones Throw Records is proud to release Ruff Draft for the first time on CD, together with 4 previously unreleased tracks, and a bonus CD of the Ruff Draft instrumentals – all from the original master tapes.