“This is the last piece of the puzzle,” says DJ House Shoes of long-time collaborator J Dilla’s The Diary. Rumored since 2002, Dilla’s unreleased rap album — featuring the prolific producer on the mic rather than behind the boards — had tantalized die-hard fans. A short EP released back in 2014 wasn’t enough. A few months ago, Mass Appeal Records put out the full version of The Diary, and the puzzle was complete.
When Dave Cooley found the drives that Dilla had recorded his long-rumored rap album, featuring his own lyrics over others’ instrumentals, it seemed all hope was lost: the drives were locked. Even when opened, there came a second challenge of posthumous art: piecing through the many studio takes and mixes, trying to channel Dilla’s intentions for the project. We put together a short doc on how The Diary came together, catching up with producers who worked on the album such as Hi-Tek and Nottz, as well as musicians like Snoop Dogg and Bilal. J Dilla will probably remain an enigma forever, but The Diary and this short doc gives insight into what may be the last full project we get out of his catalog.