J Dilla's lost vocal album The Diary arrives on Friday, but first, Mass Appeal has dropped "The Sickness," one of the bonus tracks from the posthumous all-star LP. On the iTunes-only cut, J Dilla and Nas alternate verses over a proggy, warped beat courtesy of Madlib.
"If I pull a chain out in the sun, it'll blind niggas / First thing that comes to your mind when you think of hardcore," Dilla says on his turn during "The Sickness," with Nas dispatching a lethal, recently recorded verse after the chorus. "Everybody's not gonna get me / They mad 'cause they can't accept me," Nas rhymes. "They hex me / Especially those who never rose / They want better clothes and nicer lives / I don't have the ego / I go harder than average, people / Plus I got twice the drive."
Originally slated for release in 2002, The Diary was shelved due to issues with Dilla's then-label MCA and sample clearance problems. Fifteen years and a seemingly endless legal battle later, Dilla estate creative director and former Stones Throw general manager Eothen "Egon" Alapatt resurrected the project alongside Mass Appeal and Dilla's PayJay Records, recruiting producers like Pete Rock, Madlib, Hi-Tek and more to contribute beats for the LP, which also boasts some of Dilla's own productions.
In addition to "The Sickness," Madlib also produced The Diary's "The Shining Pt. 2 (Ice)." The Diary guests include Snoop Dogg and Kokane ("Gangsta Boogie"), Bilal, Nottz and more.
"Dilla produced, recorded and oversaw this album himself, in Detroit, at his chosen studio, which was Studio A, and in his own home studio," Alapatt told Rolling Stone of the long road towards releasing the album. "The files, after he left Detroit, remained there. This wasn't the type of record that was recorded for a major label … with master tapes being ferried back and forth to the A&R, to be put into a vault somewhere. Dilla did all this himself. So when we started talking about the record in the hospital, the first thing that we talked about was, where are the tapes? He knew exactly where the tapes were We got the tapes after he died and we started the process of piecing the album together."
As for why MCA didn't release the album back in 2002, Alapatt admitted that Dilla's recruiting of Madlib played a small role.
"The fact that Dilla was going to bring Madlib out to Detroit and pay him the same thing he was going to pay, say Bink! or Supa Dave West, who at that point were getting paid a shit-ton of money to make beats. Unheard of," Alapatt said. "I mean. Who wants that? Who wants Madlib? We want the guy that made "The Light." We need some radio records. Here's Dilla rapping about making his chain swing over a Madlib loop. To me, it was genius."
The Diary is out Friday.