AllHipHop Remembers J Dilla


n February 10th 2006, Hip-Hop lost one of its true innovators when James “J Dilla/Jay Dee” Yancey passed away due to complications from Lupus. In a relatively short span of time J Dilla created an extensive body of work consisting of finessed beats and off the cuff rhymes with and for the likes of Common, A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu and Ghostface, among others. Then there is his own music with former group Slum Village and as a solo artist [Stones Throw will be be re-releasing the rare Ruff Draft album in March. picked ten of our favorite Dilla joints and with commentary from some of his peers and friends including Slum Village’s T3, Pharoahe Monch and Guilty Simpson, pays homage to an artist Hip-Hop is lesser without.

"Dynamite!" by The Roots from Things Fall Apart (1999, Geffen)

Legendary is ?uestlove’s regard for one James Yancey. And with good reason. With little more than just a drum machine Dilla was able to create productions as swinging as any band’s, if not better. So it would make sense that one of The Roots crew’s initial ventures for beats beyond their tight knit click would come from Jay Dee, even if they did have to replay it live –Aqua

“Touch this illa fifth dynamite! That was my s**t right there! I remember coppin’ the single with “Distortion to Static” as the [A-side]. I loved the way the beat teased you with

melody and then broke down everytime at the fourth bar – every-bo-dy, fire!” - Guilty Simpson

"Fall In Love"

by Slum Village from Fantastic, Volume 2 (2000, GoodVibe)

The lush “Fall In Love” fell victim to sample clearance issues, thus you won’t find it on reprints of Slum Village’s Fantastic, Vol. 2. A filtered sample is just about the only thing that can be considered stock Dilla. So of course, the technique is now often imitated. Loving Dilla’s music is certainly, “like some sex sh*t.” One, two. –Aqua

“‘Fall In Love’ started out as a beatbox in Dilla's head, later he found a drum loop

with the same pattern. We recorded it in “The Basement", where a lot of magic took place. Jay Dee put the beat together and laid the hook,which was about the love we have for music and how we hated to love it so much because of all the things we went through because of that love. Baatin set it off with the first verse, sayin “F**k this rap s**t, I’d rather listen to Classical", and I followed up with a question how did it get to the point where it took up all our time. This song is one of Slum Village's most meaningful joints. Rest in Peace to J. Dilla, the super-producer/MC/DJ

and dear friend of mine. He will always be missed.” - T3, Slum Village

“Dilla is one of my favorite MCs. I know everybody gives him production credit, but he was one of my favorite MCs. His just placement of where he would put the space and soul and the funk of what he had to say, was technical to me. It was organic, but it was something that I can't teach. Somebody might hit me saying I don't understand

what you mean how could you say that but he rated really high in my book.” - Pharoahe Monch

"Verbal Clap" by De La Soul from The Grind Date (2004, Sanctuary)

Both J Dilla and De La Soul had been labeled soft by some, especially coming after the mellow, but deeply evocative AOI: Bionix album. What I love about this track is both the producer and the artists ignore those labels, and bring out a pounding beat, with fiery lyrics that have as much swagger as Jay-Z on Blueprint. -Paine

“I remember havin’ that beat on a CD [Dilla] gave me. You could tell that was gonna be a fly track, from the intro and the way it started. Dirty ass drums and a killer bassline! De La killed that track.” - Guilty Simpson<br

"The Red"

by Jaylib from Champion Sound (2003, Stones Throw)

This single premiered four months before the LP, and Stones Throw was very generous with the promo campaign. 2003 was a year where a lot of chumps saw the acclaim 9th Wonder and Kanye were getting for soul-sampling. “The Red” was a reminder to everybody that Madlib and Jay Dee were masters of the craft, but that they’d hop on their own beats and burn you like Al Green. - Paine

“Find A Way” by A Tribe Called Quest from The Love Movement (1998, Jive)

Hip-Hop shied away from sampling like never before in 1998. Dilla had a knack for updating the Jazz qualities of early Tribe recordings, while including his signature slow, heavy rhythms in the track. As much as I love Phife and Tip’s lyrics concerning lust and attraction, it’s Jay Dee’s amazing canvas that put this beside “Electric Relaxation” so nicely. It was from this point on that I made it my duty to check for Dilla. -Paine

“Nothing Like This” by J. Dilla from Chrome Children (2006, Stones Throw)

Stones Throw became such a beautiful home for Dilla. Tracks like this not only got treated with some respect as harder Hip-Hop, but they were positioned so the masses could hear it. The tribal drums, the alluring vocals, and the musical ephiphany make this my favorite Dilla work from the last chapter in his life. -Paine

“That was some left field Dilla s**t! I love the way he didn’t reach to make that track dope. He did what he felt, which was sing over that s**t. That’s my s**t on the Chrome Children record. Dilla is the king of beats.” - Guilty Simpson

"Cold Steel" by Phat Kat featuring Elzhi from Carte Blanche (2007, Look)

People always told me Phat Kat was bad, really bad. It wasn’t until I heard this cut from April’s forthcoming album that I really understood it. Dilla could make vocals talk in a way similar to Large Pro’s chop of Biz Markie in Nas' “Ain’t Hard to Tell (Remix)” This is sampling at another language, and while the beat is so smooth, Kat and Elzhi leave the mic bloody. Detroit hardcore Hip-Hop. –Paine

“The “Cold Steel” joint is one of the illest tracks that Dilla ever did, straight up and down. Me and Dilla would record five to seven song in the matter of three hours, nothing but classic s**t, and ain’t too many people f**king with that. Detroit really makes the world go around. Dilla still lives, holla.” - Phat Kat

“Let’s Ride” by Q-Tip from Amplified (1999, Arista)

Q-Tip’s Slum Village campaigning was key in making Jay Dee a household name amongst beat junkies before SV even got their chance shine. So of course their collabs would always gratify, and here, forgive the cliché writer speak, “cascading keys” is really the best way to describe this groove anchored by...those drums, those drums. –Aqua

“I remember [“Let’s Ride”] ‘cause it had those raw-ass drums. It sounded like it was a dude killin’ those live. Dilla had that gift of adding things to a track that gave it a live feel to it. Crazy joint right there.” – Guilty Simpson

"Nag Champa" (Afrodisiac for the World)” by Common from Like Water for Chocolate (2000, MCA)

An ethereal sound that is so plush, yet on the same album that Dilla freaked the frenetic “Heat” and breez SV loaner “Thelonius”. One of many songs he created with Common, “Nag Champa” finds Dilla also helping out on the vocal tip, not on the rhyme but singing. Do yourself a favor, go back and check the Dilla helmed tracks on Common’s much maligned Electric Circus and you’ll realize the crazy knits and colors tainted your musical appreciation. –Aqua

“[Jay Dilla] was the greatest of all time, simple as that. Dilla could do any other producer's style of music from any region just as good as them or probably even better, but I never heard a producer that could do Dilla’s style just as good or better. Dude’s work ethic was crazy too, he changed the way a lot of producers thought before making a beat, genius.” – Black Milk

“Drop” by The Pharcyde from LabCabinCalifornia (1995, Delicious Vinyl)

Yeah, yeah, “Runnin’” is dopeness. No one is denying that. But “Drop” is on some otherworldly sh*t. Off kilter drum programming and a throbbing synth loop that sounds like a funky migraine was all Pharcyde, yet all Dilla. It made other producers think their techniques were as backwards as its Spike Jonze directed video. –Aqua

“I like this track ‘cause of the music and the effects it had on it then. Dilla, with that strong bassline, complemented the music perfectly. That sound right there, cats still

try to copy with zero success.” - Guilty Simpson