Producer J. Dilla died eight years ago this month, at his home in L.A. His importance in the hip-hop canon is undisputed, but how, exactly, was his legacy built?
Truth be told, no one much called him “Dilla” in his life because, for the vast majority of his career, he was known as Jay Dee.
Born James Yancey in Detroit, Michigan in 1974, he made beats for some well-known '90s songs, including Janet Jackson's Grammy-winning single “Got 'til It's Gone” and Q-Tip's “Vivrant Thing,” not to mention cult classics like De La Soul's “Stakes is High” and Pharcyde's “Drop.”
He also developed an underground following through his work with his group Slum Village as well as his frequent collaborations with Common.
But the untimely passing of this “other” Jay Dee gave sudden attention to the fact that he was responsible for a fairly varied list of classic cuts.
“His ear is phenomenal. The way he chops samples, and sonically his drums are always phenomenal. From a producer's standpoint, it could be the simplest thing. The rhythm of it, the swing of it is just phenomenal. I've never heard it that on point with anybody but him.”
His musical I.Q. was higher than most people's. His blending of genres and the way he looked at most music as one genre, the elements he was influenced by and interpolations in his music, nobody would know what that was. His library was extremely extensive because his taste was so vast. And, working with him personally, he brought the best out of artists. He was such a stickler for 'you being you.'
His work behind the mic, while not quite as popular, has also inspired a ravenous following. Chino continues: “His rhyme patterns were crazy.”
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