J Dilla and Nas flex over an electro-prog Madlib beat on “The Sickness,” an iTunes-only bonus cut from Dilla’s posthumous vocal LP, The Diary. Now the rappers unite in Ruffmercy’s psychedelic video, which finds Nas rapping and Dilla smoking against a backdrop of shifting colors, skyscrapers and palm trees.
“Everybody’s not gonna get me / They mad ’cause they can’t accept me,” Nas rhymes in his nimble, recently recorded verse. “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.”
The newly released The Diary was originally scheduled to arrive in 2002, but the project was shelved due to complications with sample clearances and the rapper-producer’s then-label MCA. After 15 years and extended legal battles, Dilla estate creative director Eothen “Egon” Alapatt revived the album with Mass Appeal and Dilla’s PayJay Records, enlisting a variety of top producers (Madlib, Hi-Tek, Pete Rock) and guest performers (Snoop Doog, Bilal) to contribute.
Alapatt spoke to Rolling Stone about the winding, challenging path toward The Diary. “Dilla produced, recorded and oversaw this album himself, in Detroit, at his chosen studio, which was Studio A, and in his own home studio,” he said. “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.”