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Finale: Celebrating J Dilla In Song

Much has been made of the late hip-hop producer J Dilla's recently released posthumous album Jay Stay Paid. And with good reason: The disc contains some of the most moving work of his career. Having died in 2006 at age 32, Dilla is arguably more highly regarded now than he was in life, and his beats continue to find their way onto some of today's most compelling hip-hop. A great example is "Heat," from the debut album of Detroit newcomer Finale.

The track's apocalyptic, off-time synth beat complements verses so overflowing with similes, alliteration and assonance that they're difficult to unpack. Rather than unfold as a narrative, the song is mainly an opportunity for the MC to show off his 100 mph flow with lines like, "Be a needle / We need you to get in the groove" and "How we manage to grow so cold? So many shoulders at a show it's like Detroit outdoors" and punch lines such as, "They wouldn't make the crew cut even if they worked at the Gap." It's funny, compelling stuff, but as the tune winds down, it's clear that its purpose is less about showcasing Finale's talents than about paying respect to his producer. As the song closes, the crowd chants Dilla's name, keeping perfect time with the beat.

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Ben Westhoff