After a decade of anticipation, The Diary, a long-lost solo album by late hip-hop legend J Dilla, was released last month. It’s his sixth posthumous album, made from the last batch of unreleased material the rapper was working on before his death in 2006. In a new video for “The Sickness,” a bonus track produced by his frequent collaborator Madlib and featuring Nas, Basquiat crowns float over heads and tiny Dillas bloom into mandalas.
Bristol-based artist Ruffmercy created a dense, dazzling video collage from grainy archival footage of Dilla. There’s not much footage of the late rapper-producer around, so this is a rare reanimation — most of the footage here is previously unseen and dates from 2003 and 2004. Best known for his likewise Basquiat-inspired music video for the Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs, and A$AP Ferg song “Old English,” Ruffmercy visualizes “The Sickness” with kaleidoscopic colors and hand-drawn animation: Keith Haring–style squiggles burst off Dilla’s body; neon words (“disease,” “nuts,” “uh”) crack into the frame like lightning bolts; aerial black-and-white shots of New York City provide a glitchy backdrop. The best music videos look like what they sound like, and the animation here is a kind of visual onomatopoeia, translating language and sound into quivering abstract shapes.