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The Middle Finger

J Dilla's “The Anthem” produced by Kanye West, and an alternate-vocal version of “Fuck the Police,” taken from a demo version of The Diary found on CD-R in a storage unit.

The Middle Finger

When J Dilla turned in a demo of his solo album to MCA Records in 2002, he did so on a CD-R that he labeled The Middle Finger. We’re going to have to guess what he meant by that – it doesn’t seem to have been a working title for the record, so maybe he was telling the A&R staff what he cared of their intervention into his creative process? Or was it what he thought about having to show the label a progress report?

For lack of a finished album, that CD-R was turned into an MCA promo CD under the new title Pay Jay. The promo CD packaged in one of those stark, black and white tray cards in a jewel case and a laser-printed label. (“Fuck the Police” was on the original CD-R but left off this promo CD.)

The Pay Jay demo/promo CD circulated at around the same time that Wendy Goldstein – the exec that had signed Dilla to MCA – left the label. This left Dilla in a lurch. The album was shelved and he was eventually released from his contractual obligations to MCA.

That demo/promo CD subsequently leaked to the public, and it became the basis of numerous bootlegs, all sourced from low-bit rate, 128 KBPS MP3 files. Dilla hadn’t even kept the original files in his archived sessions in Detroit.

That original CD-R, the actual “Middle Finger” copy, still existed. It was found in a storage unit in a pile of other major-label leftovers, and it barely played. The CD-R’s reflective paint was chipping off, rendering it all but unusable. Two tracks which never made it to The Diary (2016) did play, and they came off that CD in full resolution. Those were Dilla’s two-track mixes of the Kanye West version of “The Anthem” and his album version of “Fuck The Police,” featuring an alternate vocal performance.

This single, also titled The Middle Finger, comes from those files. The Middle Finger was released only on vinyl in a limited edition of 1000. Photo of J Dilla at A&M Records, Los Angeles, by Eric Coleman (Mochilla).