Legends Never Die: J Dilla (Episode 1)

If someone asked me to describe James Dewitt Yancey (Jay Dee aka J Dilla) in one word, my response would be, “that’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s impossible.”

J Dilla’s “Donuts”

Last week marked what would have been the legendary producer/emcee’s 44th birthday, as well as the 12th anniversary of his untimely passing from lupus. With a career that spanned over ten years, Dilla’s resume reads like he put in 20 years of work. Working with the likes of Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Common, Ghostface, Raekwon, The Roots, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, D’Angelo, as well as his group Slum Village.

Dilla’s influence on Hip Hop is still being seen today. Producers such as Kanye West, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams and 9th Wonder have all praised Dilla, and talked about how big of an influence he has been to them. Common’s 2005 classic “BE” was primarily produced by Kanye West with the exception of “Love Is…” and “It’s Your World (Part 1 & 2)” (featuring “The Kids”), which was produced by Dilla. In my opinion, the groundwork Dilla laid on Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” and “Electric Circus” laid the blueprint that Kanye West followed to create “BE”.

Some of the hits sitting under Dilla’s belt are: “Stakes is High” by De La Soul, “Runnin'” and “Drop” by The Pharcyde, “The Light” by Common, “1nce Again by A Tribe Called Quest, and many, many more.

J Dilla’s MPC and synthesizer are now being displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Common called Dilla the greatest producer of all time. Twelve years after his death, there have been several posthumous releases. Artists such as Nas, Snoop Dogg, Joey Badass, and AZ have all rhymed over a Dilla beat since he’s been gone. Proving that even though he’s transcended to the other side, his legacy lives on forever.

J Dilla’s mother, Maureen Yancey, pictured with her son’s music collection at the Smithsonian

Rest In Peace to the Mozart of Hip Hop — Dilla. Please save some beats for me on the other side.

James Dewitt Yancey
February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006