J Detroit I to the L L A.

by

rip_j_dilla

(07.02.1974 – 10.02.2006)

I’ve often tried to articulate how I felt about his death, but in many ways J Dilla aka Jay Dee (James Yancey) represents my first tangible brush with what i’m calling ‘the mortality of musical greatness’.

That’s not to say that Coltrane, Marley, Hendrix or Brown weren’t exemplary, they were and their legacies remain so. But Jay Dee represents the first time i’ve discovered, experienced and been deeply moved by an artist in and of my lifetime. That backhanded nostalgia of loving the music of your parents can be problematic. It can inhibit your need to establish a position in the spectrum, to catalogue your own defining moments. It limits the hunger for new experiences that you’ll attempt to articulate to the next generation. Sure there have been others, Cobain for example, but I was never quite deep enough to truly be rocked by his passing, that intimacy never quite achieved. Not so with Dilla.

I remember being at Good Vibes in 2006, having read the day before of his death, but hadn’t truly believed it, dismissing it as a misread rumour about the chronically ill musician. Then, standing halfway back in a crowd watching Talib Kweli and Jean Grey I heard Kweli stop the beat and ask the crowd ‘who here’s heard of J Dilla?’ a smattering of hands, some warm applause, but I was on my feat two hands high, something had clicked and I realised that it was true, he had gone. ‘this is for one of the greatest to ever do it. rest in peace’ said Kweli before dropping into the track. In that moment I truly appreciated how important ‘great’ artists are; they define your musical tastes, they influence your everyday life, and when they’re gone, well, you lose a little something.

The musical world has lost some luminaries recently Isaac Hayes, Oscar Peterson, Ike Turner and Mitch Mitchell among others, all of them deserve tribute. Today i’m celebrating James Yancey.

I’ve met people at bars and parties, started talking about music, and ended up connecting over discussions of unreleased Dilla records, or obscure and masterfully flipped samples. Like my man Pat says, he takes his blog nomenclature direct from this guy. If Detroit is killing hip-hop right now (and frankly, it is) then that is thanks in no small part to one man’s influence.

He crafted tracks for Busta, Janet Jackson, Tribe, De La, Pharcyde, Common, Talib and Erykah Badu. Shit, “neo-soul” existed because of this man.

Tracks like:
‘Runnin’ (Labcabincalifornia)
‘Stakes is High’ (Stakes is High)
‘Fall in Love’ (Fantastic, Vol2.)
‘The $’ (Ruff Draft)
‘Fuck the Police’ (Single)
‘Won’t Do’ (The Shining)
‘Love Is’ (Be)
‘Workinonit’ (Donuts)
‘The motherfuckin’ Red’. (Jaylib)

With Dilla, the more I learn about beats, production and sampling, the more I appreciate the genius of his talent, skipping the obvious cut for the unlikely snippet, unquantised dropping of illusive 8th notes, the sequencing of his drums is definitive… he was light years ahead.
And then there’s Donuts… every great artist has ‘that’ story, and the imagined scenes of Dilla in hospital, suffering from an incurable blood disease and lupus, MPC on the knees, banging out his instrumental opus, while tragic, are truly legendary.

Watching this, I remember thinking how incredible it must have been, 46 blunts aside, the two giants in the studio together, and the mythological MCA recordings pumping through the monitors.

There’ll be numerous great posts no doubt, including the month long Donuts spectacular at No Trivia. Critically, the attitude often seems to be, wasn’t feeling him then, but since he died, i’ve ‘discovered’ him. Well, I’m proud to say that Dilla still inspires me. For my money its like the famous t-shirt said – “J Dilla Changed My Life”.

Roll up a blunt (or 46!) and kick back, turn your favourite (or a new) Dilla beat up loud and remember.

“I’m thinking of a masterplan

I’m blingin’ with the cash in hand

I got a motherfuckin’ right to shine

I paid my dues, I earned this cake I abuse

I burn this paper the way I choose

Gotta handle my b.i., and I do.”

RIP.




For full discography and sales hit Stonesthrow.

Much love to Dilla’s family, in particular to Ma Dukes.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “J Detroit I to the L L A.”

  1. Broke Says:

    Top notch post homie, I know how you feel.

  2. pdilla Says:

    “handle my b.i., and I do”

  3. Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don’t live it you don’t have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things. « North of the River Says:

    […] forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things. By tubswaller Reading Dubb’s eloquently worded eulogy to Jay Dee made this blogger realise that he is surrounded by hip-hopsters. And, touched though I was by his […]

  4. Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don't live it you don't have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things. Says:

    […] Dubb’s eloquently worded eulogy to Jay Dee made this blogger realise that he is surrounded by hip-hopsters. And, touched though I was by his […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: