I guess you could say this documentary has been in the making for some time now. I remember bringing this idea to the director, Corbett Jones, in late February, unfamiliar with the technical aspects of what goes into making a documentary. He has an extensive background in documentary filmmaking, which made it ideal for us to work together. But mind you, this wasn’t an idea I had one night and decided to pitch it, but rather an idea that was birthed from a song.
J Dilla, (RIP) released his Donuts album, which is one of my personal favorites, in 2006. Donuts is an album full of beats sampled from various sources, from the obscure to the semi-popular. I spent the rest of 2006 digesting the album as a whole. The next year I spent examining each track; identifying samples used, discerning messages (what is Dilla saying?), drum programming, ya know, protocol for us beat heads/music lovers.
One song on the album quickly became my favorite as I have a penchant for soul groups.
Track 18, titled, “Don’t Cry”
“Don’t Cry” is significant because during the making of Donuts, Dilla was suffering from Lupus, which he unfortunately succumbed to. The track is quite emotional and as I stated before, beat heads will search high and low to find the sample, so I went researching. Soon enough I found the sample, “I Can’t Stand To See You Cry” by The Escorts. “The Escorts?” I thought. “I’ve never heard of them!” I then purchased the record (the actual vinyl…what a snob!).
I did more research and discovered that this group, recorded 2 full length albums while all of 7 members were in prison. I knew that this was unheard of and in my research there wasn’t extensive information on them, which I found surprising. In reading about them, I wanted to know more. Why were they in prison? How did everything come about? Skip to the present and here we are. Back then I had always wanted to do a documentary on The Escorts, but wasn’t in a position to do so. Looking back, J Dilla’s song connects to what The Escorts were singing about. J Dilla was telling friends and family not to cry because of his declining health. Similarly, The Escorts were singing to their friends and family to not cry because of them being locked away. It’s funny how things come full circle, much like the title Donuts suggests. Life’s like that sometimes.
-- Christopher Black | Producer | @TheBlack