When a great musician passes away, they leave behind not just a musical legacy, but their family, friends, and fans. The loss of J. Dilla was a devastating blow for hip-hop, and the loss of a father, son, and brother. Since his passing in 2006, there have been a handful posthumous projects featuring his incredible craftsmanship: Jay Deelicious: The Delicious Vinyl Years, Jay Stay Paid, Rebirth of Detroit, and The Lost Scrolls Vol. 1.
The newest project is Sunset Blvd. an album created by Frank Nitt (of Frank’n’Dank) and Illa J., Dilla’s younger brother–currently a part of Slum Village. Featuring appearances by DJ Quik (who mixed and mastered an unfinished Dilla masterpiece), “Go Ask the DJ” featuring Guilty Simpson, J. Rocc, and “Quicksand” featuring Common and Dezi Page. The album recorded at the Delicious Vinyl offices in Los Angeles.
Frank Nitt explains how the process went down: “Illa came to LA with about 60 beats. Came to L.A., and set up camp on Sunset Blvd. We took over half of Delicious Vinyl’s office. Kicked everybody out. Told them to take their computers, pencils and pens and go write somewhere else.”
AllHipHop.com sat down with Frank Nitt and Illa J. to talk about Dilla’s legacy and their new album, Sunset Blvd.
AllHipHop: What is something that you would say that the world does not know about J.Dilla?
Illa J: I’m just gone say, musically I heard him makes so much different type music. It’s hard for me to just say that he’s just a hip-hop producer because I know where we come from and where our family is from musically. If he was here, he would be making all kinds of stuff. For me, I feel like they put him in a box as far as like in hip-hop as just a hip-hop producer. But he produced all different types of music.
Frank Nitt: Now for me, it will probably be a more of a personal thing. Dilla was almost a recluse. He was a recluse who liked to go to the strip club. A lot people would think because of his records and how flamboyant he was when he rapped and things that he said that he was living that life right? Like when we went to the strip club directly after that we went to the studio, it was like part of his mojo of making records and doing things.
He was a very guarded individual that was not friendly. I hear a lot of people say how he was. If you met him once or twice, he might be like “Hey, what up?”. But if he don’t know you, he don’t even wanna talk to you. He don’t wanna see you. He don’t wanna smell you. He don’t wanna smoke with you. Any of that. He was very, very guarded, and very in his own box and in his own lane. So, I think that’s the thing. He was really dark.
Who is one current artist that you think he may have wanted to work with or produce for?
Frank Nitt: For me that’s hard to say. He listened to everything. I mean you can look at his body of work and it’s obviously a lot of hip-hop in there, but you know he worked with, and did stuff for Janet Jackson, Raphael Saadiq. He worked with a lot of singers and other genres of music as well but if you look at his body of work it was mostly hip-hop. As a producer, and a fan of music, he had me listening to things I would have never listened to like folk music. He opened up my ears to a lot of different music because he loved music so much. His range was really wide. As a producer it’s hard to put him in any type of box.
Did Dilla ever say what he wanted to be known for?
Frank Nitt: No he just said “I just want to be dope.” That’s it. “I wanna be dope but at the same time make my bread… I wanna be really dope not famous.” That was his M.O. If I’m the dude walking up the street, I wanna be the dopest dude walking up the street. I don’t need any fame to go with it. As long as I got the money to live the lifestyle and help my family and do what I need to do, I don’t need any of the fame. He was very much that. That guy went to the Grammy’s one year and just sat in the limo.