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99 Seconds to 'Stop' and Reflect

One of the most beautiful, disquieting hip-hop tracks in recent memory, J Dilla's "Stop" packs its 99 seconds with melancholy strings and electric guitars, rugged beats, subtle knob-turns, and turntable scratches. With all that going on, the track remains centered on a sample of Dionne Warwick's "You're Gonna Need Me," an R&B classic that touches on themes of betrayal and neglect.

One of a whopping 31 tracks on Donuts -- released only three days before J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) died at 32 from kidney failure brought about by lupus -- "Stop" resonates with somber poignancy. J Dilla ranked among hip-hop's most creative DJs, but even after producing legendary tracks for the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Common, and D'Angelo, he hadn't received his commercial due.

Erratic yet unflinchingly heartfelt, Donuts was recorded in J Dilla's hospital bed and home studio, and the disc can be frustrating -- less a stroke of genius than a glimpse of a genius at work. But the album seems clearly informed by its creator's pending mortality: "You better stop and think about what you're doing," goes the song's refrain. It's the sound of J Dilla giving mainstream hip-hop a bittersweet kiss-off, as if he's asking fans to show love to the genre's creative geniuses before they're gone.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.