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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
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Birthright (Single) (Explicit)

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Track List: Jay Dee's Revenge (Single) (Explicit)

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Track List: The Lost Scrolls Vol. 1

Comments

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Dilla! We need you back ASAP !!

Signed
A wishful thinker
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Love vibin to Dilla's beats. he really reaches your soul with his music. What an amazing gift to music and life! rest easy Dilla!
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His Music lives thru his kins and ppl still making Music today with all positive influence .. It's easy for me to be reminded in a humble manner thru just 1 of 4 elemental arts such as DJ branched with producers .. This guy always will be on some mellow fellow smooth beat s**t.
Peace
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#RESTINBEATS Dilla.. When I'm stressed or having a bad day your musical gifts to us bring me right back up and head snappin in no time. The GOAT.
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Wow like this song
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djnolo98
Taken way too soon but in his wake consider all the musical GEMS he left behind! A producer's producer and musician's musician. There will never be another Dilla...peri o d ! Even Hip-Hop producing legends such as Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, DJ Premier, Pharell, Nottz, Jazzy Jeff, ?uestLove, etc consider him the Best of the Best! You don't just hear his music...you feel it. Dilla 4ever, McNasty...Tu r n it Up!!
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ecujuco9
Dilla is the greatest producer to ever live .....you're see 30 years from now his beats will still feel fresh. ...he was way too far ahead of his time. ..
RIP...1!
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Ahhhh Dilla!! Never stray from existence, I'll always play your beats and compilations . If there's a heaven I hope you can meet me at the gates so we can collab..RIP
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EviiMushroom
holy crap, this biography, never put filthy kanye west in the same sentence as j dilla or pete rock
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I ain't gotta pimp that hard, it's just in me!
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onrelasgnol
I love dilla! I will never understand why people comment if you don't like it , it's all good if you don't , more dilla for me , but the point is instead of complaining about what you don't like , go find something you do , stay positive and love life.

I grew up listening to old school death metal , and I loved it , I began to mellow out as I got older. One day while watching adult swim (bump)I heard flying lotus and I liked it , I heard it again and I loved it ! That lead me to Pete Rock and
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For all the don't like Donuts...Rea l i z e that this King was creating it on his DEATHBED, literally. Hooked up to a ventilator, Ma Dukes praying over him and sh*t... Why did he name it Donuts? Mom's said the only thing Dilla loved as much as creating music was donuts. Now put 2 + 2 together... Some might not like Donuts, but PLEASE, respect it, and realize that Dilla was trying to give his last gift to the world while The Most High was taking back His life that is only temporarily loaned to us...
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jesse_334
Why can't you accept that some people don't like donuts? People say beats rhymes and life was a change up in the style of atcq and some people don't like it. It was largely produced by j dilla and consequence was heavily featured. It gave the album a different vibe to it. I personally like it. Happy now jay dee stan?
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And to Unll2eaL...o p i n i o n s are like a$$holes fam...everyb o d y ' s got one. But yours...stin k s . I guess if you don't get it, you WON'T get it. If you can't feel the heart and soul poured into his solo albums...you just might not have either.
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Is it possible to miss a person I never truly knew? It almost breaks my heart to know I'll never hear a new Dilla track. Guess I'll have keep digging for one's I haven't found yet. Musical genius. No exaggeration . The Stephen Hawking of hip hop...#resti n b e a t s
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Dilla
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I like Premier and Rock, don't get me wrong. But this statement above is unsettling, the only person in the same context as JDee, is Madlib. Period.
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Frequently and rightly placed in the same context as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Kanye West.
I like Premier and Rock, don't get me wrong. But this statement above is unsettling, the only person in the same context as JDee, is Madlib. Period.
Report as inappropriate
Frequently and rightly placed in the same context as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Kanye West I like Premier and Rock, don't get me wrong. But this statement above is unsettling, the only person in the same context as JDee, is Madlib. Period.
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That 'stumped crowd' was supposed to be the Hip Hop crowd buy even they didn't know whats up...ain't that irony, for ya?
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jesse_334
Dilla made a lot of good beats for good artists. One could even say classic. Why are his solo albums almost unlistenable . Honestly donuts was a heaping steaming pile of random sounds and so many sirens! The sirens are so annoying! Not top five, not top ten.
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.........you already know I'm cookin' in da lab.... ~ Pimp C

Jay Dee still makin dem hot tracks w/ our Hip-Hop Ancestors

('Pac, B.I.G.,Pimp, J M J , Left-Eye, Pun, DJ Screw, Pun, etc...)

Rest in Peace. Then, Rise in Power...

(Wish The Kristos was around to raise this dude from the dead... Trill, Lord have mercy!!!!)
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Allah, I do not follow the lies that creates crazed men,
The truth is hard to swallow your pride Islam is a sham and forever FAKING...

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Just learning about the God, may ALLAH be pleased with him...Loving his plane try groove...
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Heard this on Like Water Radio: http://pdora . c o / 1 n 9 M A d g
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Definitely top 5 producers of all time raised me musically master of sound something beautiful
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greatest hip hop producer of all time PERIOD
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vrobinson75
Dang...this brought tears to my eyes... RIP Dilla!!!
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rest in peace man
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IN LOVE W THE MUSIC AND MARRIED TO THE GAME... HOT J DILLA. I CAN'T GET ENOUGH...... A N G E L
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rmorrismd
luv and miss J Dilla
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@Unll2eal you sound dumb asf'. Dilla revoultionil i z e d the MPC and they way he made his beats were unorthodox. Those names you droped that arent getting enough "recognition " are already considered legendary producers
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jesse_334
J dilla's solo career is lack luster. Donuts, ruff draft, jay stay paid... Boring. no flow. Repetitive. Let's not give this guy props just because he is dead. 9th pete rock and premo are still alive and I never hear them get the fame they deserve. Anyone agree?
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The beat is banging the rap is tight and the vocals are smooth what more could u ask for?
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J Dilla's Legacy of musical genius still lives and beats on. One of the best. Gone too soon.
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U.N.L.V Small Business Development Center Grad 2010*
Mr.Bronshae La'Ray Alexander™ Owner of; Nevada Professional Jet`Ski Rental inc.™ Year2009* CEO of; Shandozia Entertainmen t Service®Year 2 0 0 4 * Owner of; UFC, MMA, TMC, 2Mil.1987* at S.T.M.B.Chur c h Pittsburg Ca. {Owner of Nuloos inc.™} ((Paperwork Discrepancy? ) ) ~WNBA, NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL~ Universal Studios Hollywood© The Monica & Bronshae Show® & Promos! Year2000* 103.5 The Bomb™ Year2000* K.M.E.L SF© Year1987* The Kid Chris Show® Sacramento 200
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J Dilla is timeless and his beats are still inspiring. Much respect. Biography writer gets none for comparing JD to Kanye.
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He dead a month before I was born
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Breeehhhhhhh h h h h h h h h h h h h h h h h h
J Dilla. Mf doom and madlib are my top 3 hands down
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The best!
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Then again money and women never hurts i guess.
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Music was #1 for him, that's what makes the greats for me: people who make s**t because it feels good, not for fame or money or b**ches; for the love of the music.
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Got the same birthday as J Dilla apparently. So does Steve Nash.
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I truly believe Kanye shouldn't be placed under Dilla. The only thing they have in common was making beats but Dilla was 1 in his class. He made multiple beats daily through his own unreachable potential. Kanye has someone who helps him makes most of his influential beats, but as the description says Dilla kept himself underground in a way but only cus. He loved the music.
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shepwill7
Music will never be the same w/o this genius..
Rest In Power
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Two songs into one..smooth rap and cool jazz , awesome ! :-)
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Dilla Lives Forever!
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J Dilla Changed My Life...check out Mochilla's tribute called Suite for Ma Dukes...orch e s t r a l reinterpreta t i o n of dilla beats..prett y amazing
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Eternal beats.
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DILLA DAWG.. Respect
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