Today we celebrate the birthday of one of music’s greatest contributors, the late, great J Dilla. A true jack of all trades, this Detroit MC, producer and composer has greatly influenced your favorite rapper whether they admit it (or even realize it) or not. Six years ago, I myself had no idea who this hip hop great was, nevermind his widespread influence, so I’ll excuse you if you need to take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with the man and his mindblowing discography. You’ll thank me later for sure, when you don’t draw a blank look on your face when your Facebook and Twitter feed are barraged by birthday shoutouts to the late great artist. And don’t draw attention to yourself but asking anyone on your feed exactly who he is, because honestly between this blog post introducing you, Wikipedia informing you and Youtube showing you, you have no excuse doing so.
It’s been six years since James Dewitt “Dilla” Yancey passed away from the rare blood disorder TTP and lupus, but his legacy couldn’t be any stronger. Many an article has been written on the man, as well as interviews, documentaries, T-shirts you name it. To save you on some time, I’ve gathered up what I believe to be some of the most informative, quirky, and revealing internet gems on the Dilla. A nutritious selection of goodies that will have you asking who isn’t Dilla.
J Dilla Wikipedia Entry
Admittedly, the best basic background information on who Dilla was comes to you from known other than Wikipedia. Aside from covering his life works and personal background, the entry also includes his posthumous music, his legacy and notable musical tributes. Definitely get started here before you move on to the more detailed, introspective information below.
“He developed a vast musical knowledge from his parents (his mother is a former opera singer and his father was a jazz bassist). According to his mother, he could “match pitch perfect harmony” by “two-months old”, to the amazement of musician friends and relatives.”
10 Facts About J Dilla You Might Not Know
Being able to drop these little “did you know?” tidbits at your next party will earn you some major points. Here’s one that might even surprise your biggest Dilla fan: He went on a date with the one and only Lil’ Kim!
“As is very briefly recalled in an excerpt from Frank-N-Dank & J. Dilla’s European Vacation DVD shot in late 2005, while Dilla was on his final tour—with Frank-N-Dank, DJ Rhettmatic, and friend Dave “New York” Tobman: The Queen Bee picked up Dilla Dawg at Q-Tip’s house in the 600. They had Chinese food.”
The Lost XXL Interview
Four years after his death, XXL unearthed a previously unpublished interview featuring Dilla’s group Slum Village. Dilla’s responses reveal the early stages of the iconic producer’s music career, including his difficult reasoning behind leaving the group and how they often butted heads creatively, professionally and personally:
“Nah, I mean I show my crew love but as far as moving on that was like the best thing I could ever have done,” said Dilla. “It was like I said, the business situation where you not clickin’ creatively and things like that…”
The Story Behind Some of J Dilla’s Greatest Productions
The folks at FADER wrangled up the anecdotes and history behind some of Dilla’s most classic productions, including work with Eykah Badu, Common and Black Star. This mother, artists collaborators and friends all recalled the makings of these landmark productions, resulting in a very intimate look behind the music.
Eykah Badu on “Didn’t Cha Know”
“I went to Detroit to work with this cat that I heard a few tracks from that drove me crazy. Common took me over there, we went down to the basement, Common left and Dilla and I sat and talked. He had records wall-to-wall like it was a public library and he goes, “OK, I want you to look for a record.” I’m leaking through these organized, tightly packed crates, and I just pulled out one record and the artist was Tarika Blue. I liked that name. I put on the first track [“Dreamflower”] and I fell in love with the song and I kept playing it over and over again and I said, “I want this.”
Dilla’s Last Interview
This interview provides us with the most recent look at Dilla right before he passed. As the post mentions, the music industry’s impact on Dilla becomes apparent in his responses, as well as his thoughts on his then-present work and the ways in which his work was reviewed, sometimes negatively (although most critics wouldn’t admit that now.)
“Ya know it doesn’t bother me because what people don’t understand is like when I…me myself, when I go in the studio, I just try to give the artist what they want. Like Water for Chocolate, we were both looking toward the direction of where he started or what would have been rugged hip-hop at that time. The Electric Circus, he wanted to do something totally different. I would bring him a batch of beats, and he’d just be sitting there, then as soon as I make something crazy as hell, fast uptempo, he’d like, ‘Yeah, let’s use that one.’”
J Dilla Obituary
“Dilla’s interest in music started at age 2,” his mother says. “Dilla carried 45s on his arm and turntables to the park every day, to spin records — and this was in downtown Detroit.”
Yancey got his start working in the studio for A Tribe Called Quest. When his own rap trio Slum Village found a hit with their album Fantastic, Vol. 2, Yancey quickly became one of hip-hop’s most sought-after producers.”