Update: SOLD OUT – Limited edition of 1000, hand-numbered 12-inch vinyl. Kanye West produced version of “The Anthem” & Dilla’s alt. vocal version of “Fuck the Police.” Expected ship date October 11th.
When J Dilla turned in a demo of his solo album to MCA Records in 2002, he did so on a CDR that he labeled The Middle Finger. We’re going to have to guess what he meant by that – it doesn’t seem to have been a working title for the record, so maybe he was telling the A&R staff what he cared of their intervention into his creative process? Or was it what he thought about having to show the label a progress report?
For lack of a finished album, that CDR – stripped of “Fuck the Police” – was turned into an MCA promo CD, with one of those stark, black and white tray cards in a jewel case and a laser-printed label. By that time the album was being called Pay Jay, and it circulated at around the same time that Wendy Goldstein – the exec that had signed Dilla to MCA – left the label. Dilla was left in a lurch, the album was shelved and he was eventually released from his contractual obligations to MCA.
That demo/promo CD was leaked, and it became the basis of numerous bootlegs, all sourced from low-bit rate, 128 KBPS MP3 files. Dilla hadn’t even kept the original files in his archived sessions in Detroit.
That CDR – the original CDR, the actual “Middle Finger” – still existed. It was found in a storage unit, in a pile of other major-label leftovers, and it barely played. The CD’s reflective paint was chipping off, rendering it all but unusable. Two tracks – which never made it to The Diary – did play, and they came off that CD in full resolution. Those were Dilla’s two-track mixes of the Kanye West version of “The Anthem” and his album version of “Fuck The Police,” featuring an alternate vocal performance. This single comes from those files, and completes The Diary.
Photo of J Dilla at A&M Records, Los Angeles, by Eric Coleman (Mochilla).