J Dilla: Signs
From 7″ (Stonesthrow, 2006)

Brenton Wood: Gimme Little Sign
From 7″ (Doubleshot, 1967)

It’s just my luck that my favorite song off of Donuts didn’t even make the album. Yeah, I know that sounds contradictory but I’ve listened to the song so many times that I naturally assume it was on the album until I actually go back to Donuts and realize, “hey, where’d it go?” Stonesthrow did put it out on its own 7″, with “Pandemonium” on the flip, but I still can’t shake that feeling of anticipation for it to enter the Donuts tracklisting every time I revisit that project.

The thing is…”Signs” is hardly that sophisticated a production; Dilla just loops up part of the bridge to Brenton Wood’s 1967 hit and then pumps Syl Johnson’s “Different Strokes” beneath that. But that’s part of the charm – Dilla lasered in on what’s a total ear worm part of the original and simply looping up that whiny bit of keys is all you need to make the beat work.

I should also add that I really love the source material but it does strike me as a very unusual song in terms of its arrangement. It begins simply enough, sounding more pop than R&B, but as it builds steam to the chorus, it changes things unexpectedly and hits you with one of the all-time great, feel-good, rousing hooks, especially where Wood goes, “oh…my baby.” This reminds me: it’s been way too long since I’ve played out. I’m overdue!




  1. i always wondered what the name of this beat was.
    it was always my favorite track off of Dilla’s Motown beat tape.
    even though i’m against people looping Donuts or tracks from his beat tapes.
    this track was much more short and sweet.
    but it’s dope to know i wasn’t only person who thoguht highly of
    this track.

    —a dying metaphor—

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