Donuts (album)

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Studio album by J Dilla
Released February 7, 2006
Recorded Summer 2005
Length 43:25
Label Stones Throw
Producer J Dilla
J Dilla chronology
Old Donuts
Donuts EP: J. Rocc's Picks
Alternative cover
LP release

Donuts is the ninth studio album by American producer and rapper J Dilla. Donuts was released on February 7, 2006, his 32nd birthday, and only three days before his death. On Metacritic, Donuts received "universal acclaim" from critics based on an aggregate score of 84/100 from 15 reviews.[1]

Pitchfork Media ranked the album number 38 on their list of the top 50 albums of 2006[2] and 66 on their list of the top 200 albums of the 2000s.[3]

Creative process[edit]

J Dilla had been diagnosed with an incurable blood disease TTP in 2002 and he had also been diagnosed with lupus previously. According to close friend and fellow producer Karriem Riggins the impetus for Donuts came during an extended hospital stay in the summer of 2005. Dilla's friends from the L.A.-based indie label Stones Throw came to visit and brought him a Boss SP-303 sampler and a small 45 record player so he could make music while in the hospital. Dilla completed 29 of the 31 songs on Donuts while still in the hospital.[4]

In the December 2006 issue of The Fader magazine, J Dilla's mother, Maureen Yancey, a former opera singer, spoke of watching her son's daily routine during the making of Donuts:

I knew he was working on a series of beat CDs before he came to Los Angeles. Donuts was a special project that he hadn't named yet. This was the tail end of his "Dill Withers" phase, while he was living in Clinton Township, Michigan. You see, musically he went into different phases. He'd start on a project, go back, go buy more records and then go back to working on the project again.

I saw him all day, everyday. I would go there for breakfast, go back to Detroit to check on the daycare business I was running, and then back to his house for lunch and dinner. He was on a special diet and he was a funny eater anyway. He had to take 15 different medications, we would split them up between meals, and every other day we would binge on a brownie sundae from Big Boys. That was his treat.

I didn't know about the actual album Donuts until I came to Los Angeles to stay indefinitely. I got a glimpse of the music during one of the hospital stays, around his 31st birthday, when [friend and producer] House Shoes came out from Detroit to visit him. I would sneak in and listen to the work in progress while he was in dialysis. He got furious when he found out I was listening to his music! He didn't want me to listen to anything until it was a finished product.

He was working in the hospital. He tried to go over each beat and make sure that it was something different and make sure that there was nothing that he wanted to change. "Lightworks", oh yes, that was something! That's one of the special ones. It was so different. It blended classical music (way out there classical), commercial and underground at the same time.[5]


Dilla's death, three days after the album's release, was widely mourned by the hip hop community, including all those who worked with him in the past and the years closer to his death, especially Detroit's hip-hop community (which included rapper Proof, a friend and associate of Dilla's, who also died 2 months later on April 11).

In regards to the name, "Donuts," The New York Times published an article on Dilla's death, on February 14, 2006, saying:

The record company issued a brief note about the title: Easy explanation. Dilla likes donuts. Yesterday his mother managed a chuckle when she confirmed that fact. I just bought two dozen a week ago, she said.[6]

Re-use of beats[edit]

The tracks "One for Ghost" and "Hi" were used in Ghostface Killah's Fishscale, under the names "Whip You With a Strap" and "Beauty Jackson", respectively. Ghostface Killah also used "Geek Down" for the song Murda Goons released on his Hidden Darts: Special Edition album. Busta Rhymes and Rah Digga used "Gobstopper" and "Last Donut of the Night" as beats for "Just Another Day at the Range" and "Best That Ever Did It." "Workinonit" was used by The Roots for a collaboration with Saigon for the album Game Theory, however it was not included out of respect for Dilla's passing.[7] The verse from Saigon can be heard on his mixtape Return of the Yardfather. J Dilla's posthumously released album The Shining, also released with new verses on Common's Finding Forever, uses a re-edited version of "Bye."

The aforementioned tracks were, for the most part, recorded or planned during Dilla's lifetime. After Dilla's passing, The Roots used "Time: The Donut of the Heart" for their J Dilla tribute "Can't Stop This" on the album Game Theory. In 2005, the track "Mash" was rapped over by MF DOOM and Guilty Simpson on the track "Mash's Revenge" feature on the Stones Throw compilation "B-Ball Zombie War". DOOM also used "Anti-American Graffiti" which appeared on the Dilla Ghost Doom release Sniperlite, under the track name "Sniper Elite". DOOM later used "Lightworks" on a track of the same name on his album Born Like This. "Lightworks" was also used for the "B-Ball Zombie War" track "Lightworking," which features Talib Kweli and Q-Tip. Busta Rhymes added a verse to Q-Tip and Talib Kweli's on "Lightworks". This was included in his Dillagence mixtape, 2007.

Cartoon Network has used many of the album's tracks as bumper music during the Adult Swim programming block. Adult Swim, which has been in a partnership with Stones Throw records, cited the track "Stepson of the Clapper" as their addiction.[8]

Many notable rappers and hip hop artists started to use many of the beats from Donuts:

  • Termanology also recorded a track titled, "Only One Can Win" using J Dilla's track "Two Can Win." The song is a tale about a man choosing between rap and a woman. He pays respect to Dilla in the beginning of the song.
  • Talib Kweli has used "Bye" on a track called "I Feel You" from the mixtape Blacksmith: The Movement and "Dilla Says Go" on a track called "Kweli Says Go" from the mixtape with Clinton Sparks "Get Familiar".
  • Big Pooh had used "Gobstopper" for a track titled "Plastic Cups" he also used "One Eleven" for a track with the same name featuring O-Dash on a mixtape with Mick Boogie.
  • Ghostface Killah used "One For Ghost" in a song called "Whip You with a Strap" and used "Hi" for "Beauty Jackson" on his album Fishscale. Those two songs were initially created for Ghostface, hence the title "One For Ghost".
  • Ghostface Killah also recorded a song called "Murda Goons" over the beat from "Geek Down" in the Fishscale sessions, but the song remained unreleased until 2007 when it appeared on Hidden Darts (Special Edition).
  • Drake used "Time: The Donut of the Heart" in a song called "Where to Now" on his mixtape Comeback Season (2007).
  • Charles Hamilton created a mixtape titled And Then They Played Dilla rapping over tracks from Donuts. He also created a sequel, which is named "And Then They Played Dilla 2".
  • Rapper Skyzoo has recorded tribute tracks using "Two Can Win" and "Last Donut," among others.
  • Rapper Jay Electronica used "Gobstopper" for his track "Abracadabra" and several other Dilla beats for various tracks of his Victory mixtape
  • XV released Thanks For The Donuts, a tribute EP using J Dilla beats, on February 7, 2011 (Dilla's birthday as well as the fifth anniversary of Donuts).
  • Big Sean has also released freestyle which uses the beat for "Two Can Win", and uses the same title.
  • Nas released "The Season" on October 30, 2014 which uses "Gobstopper" as the backdrop for his track. J Dilla is listed as the producer.
  • Lupe Fiasco used "The Diff'rence" on the track "Of" from his August 29, 2015 mixtape "Pharaoh Height".


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 84/100[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
The A.V. Club B+[10]
Christgau's Consumer Guide (3-star Honorable Mention)[11]
Clash 10/10[12]
Pitchfork Media 7.9/10 (2006)[13]
10/10 (2012)[14]
PopMatters 9/10 stars[15]
Q 3.5/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[17]
Stylus Magazine B[18]
URB 4/5 stars[19]

Online music service Rhapsody ranked the album #3 on its "Hip-Hop’s Best Albums of the Decade" list.[20] The album ranked number 9 on Clash's Essential 50 countdown in April 2009.[21] Originally, Pitchfork Media had given Donuts a rating of 7.9 on its initial release in 2006.[13] However in 2012, Pitchfork Media gave the reissue of the album a perfect 10/10 score, saying "It's a widely praised favorite for so many people, and yet there's something about Donuts that feels like such an intensely personal statement".[14]

In an interview for Pitchfork Media, Panda Bear of Animal Collective stated that Donuts was "By far the album I've listened to most over the past year, and I feel like almost any of the songs off there I could say is my favorite."[22]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Donuts (Outro)"   0:11
2. "Workinonit"   2:57
3. "Waves"   1:38
4. "Light My Fire"   0:35
5. "The New"   0:49
6. "Stop"   1:39
7. "People"   1:24
8. "The Diff'rence"   1:52
9. "Mash"   1:31
10. "Time: The Donut of the Heart"   1:38
11. "Glazed"   1:21
12. "Airworks"   1:44
13. "Lightworks"   1:55
14. "Stepson of the Clapper"   1:01
15. "The Twister (Huh, What)"   1:16
16. "One Eleven"   1:11
17. "Two Can Win"   1:47
18. "Don't Cry"   1:59
19. "Anti-American Graffiti"   1:53
20. "Geek Down"   1:19
21. "Thunder"   0:54
22. "Gobstopper"   1:05
23. "One for Ghost"   1:18
24. "Dilla Says Go"   1:16
25. "Walkinonit"   1:15
26. "The Factory"   1:23
27. "U-Love"   1:00
28. "Hi."   1:16
29. "Bye."   1:27
30. "Last Donut of the Night"   1:39
31. "Donuts (Intro)"   1:12

Donuts: J Rocc's Picks[edit]

In promotion for the album, Stones Throw released a limited edition EP called Donuts EP: J. Rocc's Picks. This EP contained five extended versions of Donuts instrumentals and the exclusive track, "Signs."


Chart (2006)[23] Peak
U.S. Independent Albums 21


  1. ^ a b "Reviews for Donuts by J Dilla aka Jay Dee". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 50 Albums of 2006 | Features". 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  3. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100-51 | Features". 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  4. ^ Aku, Timmhotep "Fantastic Voyage", The Source, April 5, 2006, accessed March 22, 2011.
  5. ^ "Shine On...and On (Extended Sentimental Remix)". The Fader. 2006-11-18. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  6. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (February 14, 2006). "James Yancey, 32, Producer Known for Soulful Hip-Hop". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Exclusive Hip Hop News, Audio, Lyrics, Videos, Honeys, Wear, Sneakers, Download Mixtapes". 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  8. ^ Stones Throw Archived May 5, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Donuts – J Dilla". AllMusic. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  10. ^ Rabin, Nathan (February 21, 2006). "J Dilla: Donuts". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: J. Dilla". Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  12. ^ Diver, Mike (February 13, 2014). "Clash Likes To Score: Ten 21st Century 10/10s". Clash. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Dukes, Will (February 8, 2006). "J Dilla: Donuts". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Patrin, Nate (January 16, 2013). "J Dilla: Donuts (45 Box Set)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  15. ^ Frauenhofer, Michael (February 13, 2006). "J Dilla: Donuts". PopMatters. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Donuts". Q (237): 19. April 2006. 
  17. ^ Relic, Peter (February 1, 2006). "J Dilla: Donuts". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  18. ^ O'Donnell, Mallory (February 10, 2006). "J Dilla – Donuts – Album Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Donuts". URB: 113. March 2006. 
  20. ^ "Hip-Hop’s Best Albums of the Decade" Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  21. ^ "Clash Essential 50 - Number 9 | Clash Music Exclusive Best of Clash". April 16, 2009. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  22. ^ Lennox, Noah "Pitchfork: Guest Lists: Panda Bear", Pitchfork, February 15, 2007, accessed March 22, 2011.
  23. ^ allmusic ((( Donuts - Charts & Awards - Billboard Albums ))). Allmusic. Accessed May 20, 2008.

External links[edit]