Producer: Jay Dee, De La Soul
Album: Stakes Is High
Label: Tommy Boy, Warner Bros.

J Dilla is a tricky artist because his best production continually evaded pigeonholing. Sure, there was the typical Dilla beat, but ask any fan and they’ll tell you their favorite was the track that chucked the rulebook out the window, or that pulled a particularly evocative performance from an unexpected artist. “Stakes is High” is a sidestep, at once a mutation of a rugged Havoc-style beat and the perfect fit for a track intended to present once-benevolent Posdnous with the gravitas necessary to critique the very art form that had made him. The beat to “Stakes is High” couldn’t fit its title any better, capturing a cocktail of tense, uncertain concern that granted its MCs the moral authority they needed.