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J-Dilla

Frequently and rightly placed in the same context as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Kanye West, J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) built and sustained a high standing as a producer's producer while maintaining a low profile. When Pharrell Williams appeared on BET's 106 & Park in 2004, he excitedly declared that Dilla was his favorite producer and told an audibly stumped crowd that it had probably never heard of the man. At the time, Dilla had been active for well over a decade and had netted enough beats -- including the Pharcyde's "Runnin'," De La Soul's "Stakes Is High," Common's "The Light," and several others with production teams the Ummah and the Soulquarians -- to be considered an all-time great. Dilla never produced a mainstream smash and, in many cases, his presence has to be confirmed with a liner notes scan. (And even then, that might not help; he occasionally went uncredited.) He never marked his territory like Just Blaze ("Just Blaze!") or Jazze Pha ("This is a Jazze Phizzle produc-shizzle!"), and he never hogged the mike like P. Diddy. He let his music, and its followers, do the talking. Rather than provide immediate (or fleeting) thrills, he was hooked on working the subconscious as much as the neck muscles. He was so focused on his work that it took a severe toll on his health.

Born and raised on the east side of Detroit, Dilla -- James Yancey -- was forced by his parents to become involved with music, and he was a record fanatic at a young age, absorbing funk and rap singles and jazz albums, from Slave to Jack McDuff. He learned to play cello, keyboards, trumpet, and violin, but drums got him like nothing else. He tried his hand at producing tracks on a tape deck by using the pause and record buttons, and he also took up MCing. In 1988, he formed Slum Village with Pershing High School friends Baatin and T3. It wasn't until 1992, after receiving some valuable guidance from fellow Detroiter Amp Fiddler, that his talent really began to take shape.

A session keyboardist who had worked with Prince, Parliament, and Enchantment, Fiddler taught Dilla how to use the MPC drum machine. To say that Dilla was a quick study would be an understatement. Fiddler introduced his protégé to A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, who heard some of Slum Village's material, liked it, and helped get the word out. Following sessions with First Down (a collaboration with Phat Kat, another Detroiter), Little Indian, and alternative rocker Poe, Dilla's production career reached full flight. In 1996 alone, he worked with Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and the Pharcyde, all the while playing a major role in the Ummah with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. (He did extensive work on Tribe's last two albums.) Before long, hardcore hip-hop fans began to know Dilla for his steady wobble, which was unfailingly musical and rich in details -- shuffling hi-hats, oddly placed handclaps, spacious drum loops with drastically reshaped samples of tracks both obscure and obvious.

Through the remainder of the '90s, Dilla quietly racked up more output, including Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone" (for which he did not receive credit), additional tracks for the Pharcyde, and collaborative work with Q-Tip on all of 1999's Amplified. Largely upbeat and filled with boisterous energy and thick sounds, Amplified is one of many pieces of evidence against the argument that Dilla was about one sound and one style. During the producer's steady rise, Slum Village remained a priority; Fantastic, Vol. 2 and Best Kept Secret (credited to J-88, an SV pseudonym) were released within weeks of each other in 2000. However, the producer would only contribute a few tracks to the group from then on, as his schedule became increasingly tight. As a core member of the Soulquarians, with James Poyser and the Roots' Ahmir "?eustlove" Thompson, Dilla worked on Common's Like Water for Chocolate, D'Angelo's Voodoo, Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, and Talib Kweli's Quality. Through 2005, he continued to work with past associates while dipping his toes further in R&B. A favor was returned on Fiddler's 2004-released Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, and a couple dynamite tracks -- Steve Spacek's "Dollar" and longtime collaborator Dwele's "Keep On" -- were released the following year.

Amazingly, from 2001 on, Dilla was also a prolific solo artist. A couple singles and the Welcome 2 Detroit album came out in 2001, and a number of low-key instrumental compilations and incidental 12" singles followed shortly thereafter. Rarely praised for his mike skills, he was often assisted by the likes of Phat Kat, Lacks, and Frank-n-Dank. Wooed by a Madlib mixtape that featured the rhymes of Oxnard's finest over his own beats, Dilla forged an alliance with his admirer for 2003's Champion Sound, released under the name Jaylib. It was around this time that his health took a sharp decline. For over two years, he had to use a dialysis machine. Despite having to perform in a wheelchair, he was still able to tour in Europe during late 2005.

Donuts, an album of instrumentals that Dilla completed during one of his extended hospital stays, was released on February 7, 2006, his 32nd birthday. Three days later, while staying at his Los Angeles home with his mother, he passed away, a victim of cardiac arrest. While reflecting on the tremendous loss, close colleague and friend Thompson (an authority if there ever was one) compared the producer's level of genius to that of jazz giant Charlie Parker. Karriem Riggins, a close associate, put the final touches on another album -- The Shining -- which was released six months later.

Numerous compilations were issued throughout the following years. These releases included the Jay Love Japan EP (OX: Operation Unknown, 2007), Jay Deelicious: The Delicious Vinyl Years (Delicious Vinyl, 2007), the three-volume Dillanthology series (Rapster, 2009), Jay Stay Paid (Nature Sounds, 2009), Donut Shop (Stones Throw, 2010), and Rebirth of Detroit (Ruffdraft, 2012). ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Lost Scrolls Vol. 1

Comments

miss him....RIH- J
lamonte74
Dilla is the BEST PRODUCER EVER HANDS DOWN!!!!!!!
fair comparison
*lives
Dilla lies in my life
Dilla lives
Dilla lives
Best 2 ever do it hands down
Love it!!
Love J-Dilla, rocking beats... but why does Pandora mention that P.O.S. Kanye West in the same context, comparing apples to lemons.
Dilla-One of the best yet; remember back in the day ridin in my lil bros raggedy a** Hyundai excel bumpin DILLA instrumental s - fools lookin at us like wtf? Rest well god
Rest in Beats Dilla! Peace god!
Jay Dee!!!
I'm listening to Fleaux Radio: http://pdora . c o / 1 n 9 M A d g
J-dilla set the blue print!!!
Kanye will never in a lifetime be as good as J-dilla
I'm a big dilla fan but what's with all the Kanye hate dude my be the biggest a** of all time but there is a reason why he's respected by his peers dude is a great musical artist and has some classics under his belt yea he's no jay Dee but who is really? Kinda hate hop hop fans sometimes people lose they minds if an artist does a few things you don't like and all of a sudden they are garbage despite what they have accomplished or done in the past. It's like they can't respect someone's music whe
Who's Kanye west?
And, RIP....32... ? What a ridiculous shame. Hiphop was robbed, for sure.
While u are entitled to hate Kanye all u want, he is also a producer, hence the credit. One that worked alongside Jay among other luminaries. Nothing to correct, despite his own polarizing records. I refer haters to his sampling King Crimson, from In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), should there be any doubt. Do any y'all know King Crimson? Thought not. Not to say he is as influential or as vintage as these other genius producers, but credit where credit is due.
I was about to say the same as the previous post, how dare they put that Kanye guy next to legends like DJ Premier, Pete Rock and J Dilla??? What an atrocity to the bio, fix it, that is the worst typo ever (Just say it was an accident) ugh...makes my brain hurt.
R.I.P. Dilla, the Hip-Hop world misses you.
Lmao what ever fucktard editor compared Jaydee to that talentless a** clown Kanye!!!! Correct that !!!! An of course good J Dilla
R.I.H
R.I.P J-Dilla Aka Jay Dee
Da best period
Dilla was the epitome of PURE Hip Hop...
RIP J Dilla.. Great music/beats/ p r o d u c t i o n s . . Your memory will live on through your music!!
Rip
RIP J-Dilla
You wanna talk about real Hip Hop beats!.. this dude is the illest!! Dilla will always be a master for all others to study..
God we need more of this stuff in the real world.
LOVE REAL HIP HOP
TURN IT UP!
R.I.P. Dilla, Thank you for blessing us with what TRUE HIP HOP was meant to sound like. One!
The illest that 99% of mainstream radios never heard of. Hip Hop will never be the same ,
Ha didnt realize Kanye was in the same category as Dilla, Premier, and PR. Thats some bs right there these guys are way better then Kanye and others, rip to you J-Dilla.
sade_lalanne
rest in beats J Dilla
RIP GOAT
r.i.p.
his sound is on point, love the beat
the best producer of all time without a doubt, and created some of the best music and bizarre beats in a good way... it would have been an honor to have met j dilla or at least seen him at concert R.I.P
D-ILLA!
grprovidence
Dilla!!
RIP J-DILLA WATTS♥...... . B R O
FreshShit! Mad love from Hawaii! Rest In Paradise Dilla.
Rest IN PEACE
Interesting
the GOAT.. he was the GOAT prior to his passing .. too bad.. J-DILLA CHANGED MY LIFE!!
Truly blessed. Never sought fame. I respect that.
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