33 1/3: Donuts

About the book.

J Dilla’s Donuts is #93 in the acclaimed 33 1/3 series of record guides, published by Bloomsbury Academic in April 2014.

From a Los Angeles hospital bed, equipped with little more than a laptop and a stack of records, James “J Dilla” Yancey crafted a set of tracks that would forever change the way beatmakers viewed their artform. The songs on Donuts are not hip hop music as “hip hop music” is typically defined; they careen and crash into each other, in one moment noisy and abrasive, gorgeous and heartbreaking the next. The samples and melodies tell the story of a man coming to terms with his declining health, a final love letter to the family and friends he was leaving behind. As a prolific producer with a voracious appetite for the history and mechanics of the music he loved, J Dilla knew the records that went into constructing Donuts inside and out. He could have taken them all and made a much different, more accessible album. If the widely accepted view is that his final work is a record about dying, the question becomes why did he make this record about dying?

Drawing from philosophy, critical theory and musicology, as well as Dilla’s own musical catalogue, Jordan Ferguson shows that the contradictory, irascible and confrontational music found on Donuts is as much a result of an artist’s declining health as it is an example of what scholars call “late style,” placing the album in a musical tradition that stretches back centuries.

The bestselling 33 1/3 volume of 2014.

Selected as a Best Book of 2014 by National Public Radio.

“All the WhoSampled pageviews in the world couldn’t match the depth that Ferguson brings to the table.” – Scott Heins, Okayplayer.com

“That such a lively collection of beats and samples—as cerebral as they are physical—was created by a dying man ensures that Jordan Ferguson’s book will be poignant, but his clear storytelling and direct prose allows producer James Yancey to emerge as a complicated, contradictory character.Stephen M. Deusner, Pitchfork

That we are able to fully appreciate this sort of hip-hop head praise and its implied intricacies is in large part thanks to Ferguson’s admirable work in laying the historical groundwork, contextualizing Dilla’s influences and, finally, giving his many friends and admirers the space to cultivate the legend. – Nicholas Miriello, Los Angeles Review of Books

“[T]here’s lots to chew on here, and Ferguson frames these topics in a way that’s easy to read and consistently interesting, which is easier said than done.” Popblerd.com

“YO. The book is fantastic.” House Shoes.

Read an excerpt of the book exclusively on Stones Throw!

On Bloomsbury.



About the series.

Since 2003, the 33 1/3 series has published over 100 short volumes by journalists, musicians, zinesters and novelists on classic albums of all genres.

It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom Exile on Main Street or Electric Ladyland are as significant and worthy of study as The Catcher in the Rye or Middlemarch…[The series] is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration–The New York Times Book Review, 2006

A growing Alexandria of rock criticism – Los Angeles Times, 2008

Ideal for the rock geek who thinks liner notes just aren’t enough–Rolling Stone

One of the coolest publishing imprints on the planet–Bookslut

These are for the insane collectors out there who appreciate fantastic design, well-executed thinking, and things that make your house look cool. Each volume in this series takes a seminal album and breaks it down in startling minutiae. We love these. We are huge nerds.—Vice

A brilliant series…each one a word of real love—NME (UK)

Passionate, obsessive, and smart—Nylon

Religious tracts for the nock ‘n’ roll faithful—Uncut (UK)

For those of you who really like to know everything there is to know about an album, you’d do well to check out Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of books.”—Pitchfork