The last days of revered producer James “J. Dilla” Yancey have been chronicled on a new DVD titled Frank N Dank and J. Dilla’s European Vacation.
European Vacation features footage of a November 2005 tour, the last that J. Dilla embarked upon, before he passed away from complications from Lupus on February 10, 2006.
Featured on the DVD are childhood friends and group Frank Bush and Derrick Dank Harvey.
J. Dilla produced the group’s first 12″ singles and their fabled album 48 Hours, which was supposed to be released on MCA Records in 2000, but was shelved and later leaked and bootlegged.
“We’ve known Dilla since 1984, before there were beats, rhymes or any of that,” Frank told AllHipHop.com. “That’s what this whole thing was built on. Not music, not any of the rap stuff. He was a soldier. This DVD will show all the people who love Dilla and didn’t get to know him as a person, it shows the type of person he was. He didn’t have to go on this tour, he chose to. He loved what he did and he wanted to give that love back to the people who supported him.”
The DVD, which also features former group member Phat Kat (1st Down) and DJ Rhettmatic, follows J. Dilla and Frank-N-Dank traveling across Europe, performing at various sold out shows.
While J. Dilla was confined to a wheel chair during the time European Vacation was filmed, both Frank and Dank revealed that J. Dilla sanctioned and approved the taping, to document his love for the culture.
“We didn’t know how sick he was until he came off the plane,” Frank said. Dank confirmed adding: “Nobody knew he was sick. He was a real personal individual.”
“He’s not gonna tell you ‘I’m sick,’ Dank continued. “So when we got to the airport in London and it was a shocker. It made me want to break down and cry for real, cause my man is in a wheel chair. But at the same time I had to be strong for him for the tour. I carried him every single night, to the venue and after the venues.”
Dank said that another purpose of the DVD is to further educate United States Hip-Hop fans about Dilla’s legacy and the impact that he had on the landscape of Hip-Hop.
“You see a movement, people from another country that don’t speak any English, but they know every song,” Dank said of Dilla’s European fans. “Then you get people here in America and they don’t know none of this s**t.”
Not only was J. Dilla a member of the Detroit Hip-Hop group Slum Village, he produced a number of influential records as Jaylib (J. Dilla and Madlib) and put in work as a member of the The Soulquarians production crew.
J. Dilla lent his production talents to artists like Janet Jackson, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Keith Murray, The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, Bilal, Proof, Ghostface Killah and others.
His resume stretches as far back as 1996, when he broke into the mainstream by producing The Pharcyde’s classic Hip-Hop anthem “Runnin.”
“He was so secluded he didn’t let anyone in, so to see so many stories about The Pharcyde, the first time he met B.I.G. and Puff, it’s just amazing,” Frank said.
In addition to Frank N Dank, the DVD features an appearance by J. Dilla’s mother Maureen Yancey, who also executive produced European Vacation.
“Me and his mom had a conversation after he passed,” revealed Frank. “He prepared her for him to go. He told her ‘I am going to be OK. I just need you to be alright.’ In his mind he already knew, so he let go when thought everything was in place. This is a week before he passed away. This is straight from his mother and you can’t get no realer than that. He knew what he was doing. This DVD is for his people.”
European Vacation also introduces a number of artists that J. Dilla as working with, including CakeBoys, Que D, Young RJ and iLLA-JAY, J. Dilla’s 23-year-old younger brother, who also produces and raps.
“He’s got beats and rhymes. He’s learning and he’s a really talented kid. Really humble and he understands. J. Dilla saw and taught him some things,” Dank told AllHipHop.com.
Frank N Dank and J. Dilla’s European Vacation is in stores now.