With so much music being created, shared, and stored digitally these days, it’s easy to take for granted the easy access to rarities and behind-the-scenes snippets that at one point would have been impossible to hear. Highlighting this, Virginia rap veteran Skillz (aka Mad Skillz) recently posted a rare treasure indeed: An original cassette tape given to him by Detroit production legend J Dilla containing the original instrumentals for Skillz’s breakout singles “It’s Goin’ Down” and “The Jam,” as well as the one for The Pharcyde’s 1995 fan-favorite “Runnin’.”
Skillz found the tape over the weekend, taking a photo, posting it to Instagram, and tagging Q-Tip in his excitement at unearthing a one-of-a-kind, historical item. Unlike digital formats, cassette tape can degrade over time and the casing can become damaged, so Skillz had to perform “surgery” on the cassette (as he put it in his Instagram Story documenting his discovery). After fixing the tape, he was able to digitize it and share its contents, which included some previously unheard samples as well tracks from some of Dilla’s best-beloved beats, including “Runnin’,” revealing how the song was transformed from its original incarnation to the one heard on the LA group’s album Labcabincalifornia.
It’s truly a fun discovery for any hip-hop head and a glimpse into a creative process that would ordinarily have been lost to time. Check it out above.