Yesterday, February 10th, marked the 3rd anniversary since the passing of legendary hip-hop producer, J. Dilla. At the time of his death (due to complications from Lupus in 2006 at age 32) he was revered as an underground icon by those who knew his material. Although he shunned the limelight, his discography as a producer for artists as varied as the Pharcyde and Janet Jackson to the Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Slum Village speaks for itself. Many industry titans like Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, and ?uestlove, have gone on record saying that Dilla, wasn't just a great producer, he was the best producer.
So I've been curious in what ways Dilla's material influenced key hip-hop artists here in Seattle. I reached out to a few people and below are their responses.
How would you describe the impact that J Dilla's music had on you?
I talked to him on the phone a couple times but never got to work with him.
Dilla was probably the greatest producer in hip hop history to me when it came to the technical side. He had a way of doing things that just couldn't be duplicated. His ability to create original styles and sounds definitely got me to think outside the box in my own approach. Pretty much all the beats I did for Gift of Gab's album in '03 were inspired by Jay Dee. I was fortunate enough to work on some of the same albums with him around that time as well.
Top 3 Dilla Songs?
Some of my favorite beats never got used but out of his released material I would have to go with.
This song completely blew me away the first time I heard it. I remember playin this at Art Bar and clearing the dancefloor because people weren't familiar with it and legitimately being pissed at the crowd lol.
House Shoes gave me a copy of it when I went to Detroit in '98 I think. This is when when Dilla started to really get good on the mic. Perfect song to me.
Ruff Draft EP was filthy in its entirety but this song stuck out to me. The beat was kind of like a lost song off of the Scarface soundtrack. The rap is one of Dilla's best ever.
I would say dilla's music affected me in a similar way that it affected many people. It gave us a new way to listen to music, a new ear for sounds and samples. Not only just a new way to listen to the finished product, but a new way to listen for samples and originals. Beyond that he showed me how to really be focused on what you do and love it. One example is when Erykah Badu, and/or the Roots are winning awards for songs he did the beats for, and instead of him being there to celebrate on stage with them, he's in the studio makin' more beats. He could sample a song everyone already knows and make it hit harder than all of the previous versions. He was also very true to his area and his folks. He taught/reminded us (who may have forgot or not known) about loyalty, and dedication. He was also probably the best producer that could rap and DJ. (and he was an Aquarius)
Three tracks isnt enough! But if I had to, my picks would be:
2) Jay Dee "Misdemeanor"
My favorite Dilla beats have layered ethereal sounds, muddy bass tones and punchy drums. They are fun to play because their consistency is much like a liquid and a solid at the same time. The synths and basslines drench the room around you, while the drums keep you present in the moment. He was definitely one of the greats, a truly prolific genius.
The 3 tracks I can never get out of my head are:
There were always tracks of his that I heard and was like, this dude is always consistently dope! It actually wasn't until he passed that I read over his discography and noticed there were tons of tracks that I didn't know or remember he was behind. Primo and Pete Rock were always my two favorites along with many other top hip-hop producers, but Dilla ended up having more variety and tracks I loved so he hit that top 3 slot with Primo and P.R. I can't really say he specifically influenced my production as I'm always influenced by all sounds and styles around me... and I've always messed with a lot of different drum patterns, but I think he took drum programming to a new level and that's something I pay attention to.
A Top 3? That's a hard question, but in no specific order: