J Dilla’s long lost vocal album The Diary was finally released in April after originally being shelved by MCA Records back in 2002. Chronicling the twists and turns that led to the recovery of the original files and the eventual proper release of the album, Mass Appeal released a mini documentary that includes interviews with many of Dilla’s collaborators.
“Dilla found some crazy software for backing up his drives,” mix engineer Dave Cooley explains. “And it was made by a small company on the East Coast. Almost no one bought the software except for him and maybe a handful of other people. The company went out of business so you couldn’t even get the software anymore.”
After making a bunch of phone calls, “we finally got the software and when we opened up the tapes, sure enough there were all the sessions,” Cooley continues. “Like a million versions. We had to figure out what he was thinking and it took like ten years.”
“He wrote his rhyme and also sequenced the song to fit what he was doing,” fellow Detroit producer Kariem Riggins explains. “That dude was super lyrical and had a vision. Even picking beats from other artists, he knew how to write to those beats and make them his.”
Watch the documentary above and check out the finished product below.