It’s February seventh and the birthday of the late and great James Dewitt Yancey, also known as J Dilla and Jay Dee. It is also the birthday of the late producer Nujabes, who I will post on sometime later today. J dilla died at age 32 from the disease lupus and a rare disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) which causes blood clots to form in your blood vessels. In the summer of 2005 Dilla was hospitalized in LA, he could not walk and was barely able to talk. While hospitalized, and knowing that his time left was short, Dilla began to produce his last album Donuts. Donuts was released on Stones Throw on February 7, 2006, his 32nd birthday. Dilla died three days later. His mother, Maureen Yancey (Ma Dukes), said of his death “I rejoiced in the fact that he wasn’t sick anymore, and that he’d done what he came here to do. I believe that. His purpose on earth was to come here and give us the music that he had in his heart and soul.”
The first track that I heard produced by Dilla was Fantastic 3 off of the Slum Village classic album Fantastic, Vol. 1. Slum Village consisted of rappers Baatin, T3, and producer J Dilla. The three grew up together and the album was finished in 1996 but not officially released until 2005. The rapping throughout the album is consistent but what makes Fantastic stand out is Dilla’s production. If you haven’t heard of Dilla, this is the best place to start off your journey of listening to all the music that he has produced. It is certainly a wonderful challenge.
From the trance like melodies in Fantastic 3 to the heavy hitting snare in Look of Love to the soulful clap of Players, Dilla was a genius behind the beat. Dilla was a master at finding the most unique samples and creating something beautiful. One of my favorite samples that he uses is in a track with Erykah Badu called Didn’t Cha Know. Dilla sampled Tarika Blue’s Dreamflower off of her Best of LP. I’l put it at the bottom of this post along with a tribute medley for Dilla made by one of my favorites, Knxwledge.
Knxwledge tribute to Dilla. He says this in his typical cryptic writing
Happy listening, and if you havent yet, I highly recommend that you start sifting through the massive collection of tracks produced by this man.
RIP J Dilla