“The Anthem” features vocals from J Dilla and Detroit duo Frank n Dank. The track appears on The Diary, a lost vocal album (originally known as Pay Jay) completed in the early 2000s, but not released until this April thanks to the work of engineer Dave Cooley.
The album primarily features Dilla rapping over production from other artists including Madlib, Pete Rock and Nottz, but includes a handful of tracks, like “The Anthem,” produced by Dilla. However, as Fact reports, the original version of “The Anthem” was produced by Kanye West, though the rapper was unaware that J Dilla had recorded over the beat until an early version called “We F’d Up” leaked in 2008. West’s original production eventually evolved into the beat for Jay Z’s “Takeover,” while Dilla ended up producing his own version, which became “The Anthem.”
Along with “The Anthem,” The Middle Finger will include an alternate vocal take of Dilla’s “Fuck the Police.” Per Rappcats, both tracks appeared on an early demo version of the solo record, which Dilla turned into MCA in 2002 on a CD-R labeled, “The Middle Finger.”
While that disc became the basis for low-quality bootlegs, the original CD-R was eventually found in a storage locker. Though the disc was scratched to the point of mostly unlistenable, West’s version of “The Anthem” and the alternate take of “Fuck the Police” were salvageable and eventually used to make The Middle Finger.
West has long admired J Dilla and noted the producer’s vast influence in the Stones Throw Records documentary, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton. “We gotta make music and think, ‘If Dilla was alive, would he like this?'” West said. “I have to work on behalf of Dilla. When I put a weird-ass Jamaican sample, it works at first but it’s not until I put the [makes discordant musical noise] that it sounds like art or sounds slightly wrong. And now it’ll go to the radio now that it’s wrong, motherfucker. Now play this. Play this 5-minute song that completely fucks up your programming. The best respect that we can pay to great artists that have inspired us so much is to never sell out.”