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J. Dilla: Jay Stay Paid (Review)

When Lupus silenced J. Dilla on February 10, 2006, Hip-Hop lost one of its most influential, yet, highly underrated producer/rappers. Often called, “Your favorite producer’s, favorite producer,” James Yancey was a product of his environment. His mother, Maureen Yancey, has recounted often how a three year old Dilla would sit at his little record player listening to James Brown over and over again. His innovation as a crate digger and affinity for making old songs new again led to Dilla’s status as one of the most gifted sample using producers in the game.

His latest posthumous album, Jay Stay Paid is the brainchild of Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey and legendary producer and close Dilla associate, Pete Rock. Largely instrumental with unreleased tracks, the album also features sporadic songs with vocals from Lil’ Fame of MOP, Black Thought, DOOM, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Raekwon, and Detroiter’s Danny Brown, Phat Kat and Frank Nitty of Frank ‘n’ Dank. The album is set up as a radio show, which is at times, distracting. However, the saving grace of the “KJay FM” style is that it also features snippets of an actual J. Dilla radio interview.

On “Blood Sport”, Lil’ Fame goes hard with lines like, “Now ante up b***h and pay Dilla,” shouting out Detroit using the city’s classic greeting, “What Up, Doe.” Despite the fact that many of the tracks on Jay Stay Paid are many years old, the album does not sound dated in any way. In fact, Dilla fans and Hip-Hop enthusiasts will enjoy guessing which years the tracks were created based on how they sound in comparison to other previously released tracks. His younger brother, Illa J, who is 12 years younger than his legendary brother boasts on “See That Boy Fly,” that “the beat stay banging and it’s 12 years older than yo’ shit.”

Black Thought dumbs out on “Reality Check,” easily the best song on the album which name checks reality tv shows and the fans who watch them, “Watching “Cribs” looking at shit she never gon’ get/ “America’s Best Dance Moves” she tryin’ to do the steps/ ‘Bout to do her like Beyonce and tell her to the left/Truth be told, she ‘bout to television me to death.” The album also introduces to an international audience Detroit rapper, Danny Brown, whose first album; Hot Soup made him a local sensation. On “Dilla Bot vs. The Hybrid”, Brown uses the braggadocio lyrical prowess that Detroit rappers are known for, “F**k with Brown, dog I show you where the drama is/ Swear it might be easier to snatch Obama kids.”

Raised in Conant Gardens, a historic neighborhood in Detroit, Dilla was a founding member of Slum Village and a member of the hip-hop production collective known as The Ummah, which was founded in 1995 and created classic songs for A Tribe Called Quest, The Brand New Heavies, Janet Jackson and more. Jay Stay Paid (J$P) is a heartfelt collection of remains a wealth of unreleased material and further testimony to his legacy. Since his death, innumerable parties, mixtapes and other dedications have taken place to raise awareness of J. Dilla’s music as well as to pay his medical expenses, which were estimated at a quarter of a million dollars. Further, his passing has raised awareness of Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that both Dilla and his mother suffer from.

Three years after his death, it’s possible that more he is gaining more fans in death than he had in life. His passing left a hole in the heart of Hip-Hop and hopefully his legacy will shine on. Furthermore, hopefully this will help take care of his mother’s health since Dilla’s mother is taking care of Hip-Hop with this excellent work of art, Jay Stay Paid.

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