From EP to album, Ruff Draft exhibited a more abstract Dilla than people had previously known.
J Dilla always pushed the boundaries of hip hop but this was probably his most abstract and experimental in terms of sound. Ruff Draft was originally released as an EP in 2003. A year after his death, it was remastered and re-released as a full album by Stones Throw. Stylistically, Jay Dee experimented with a more “lo-fi” sound and plenty of 70s/80s synth action, on tracks like Reckless Driving and Take Notice.
But arguably one of his most daring and unique tracks was Nothing Like This. Featuring his distorted singing vocals and an unnamed sample played backwards, it was like nothing Dilla had produced before. Ah, classic Dilla. Despite the obscure quality of the pieces he chose for the album (which were apparently all done in a week), they all shared a certain character.
Compared to his other releases, some fans may not look on Ruff Draft with as much fondness as, say, Welcome 2 Detroit or The Shining but this was a great direction for Jay Dee to take. It didn’t work out so well for Common on Electric Circus, but Dilla told him it wasn’t such a good idea (according to his Eindhoven interview). Luckily, it was for him.