J Dilla

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J Dilla (alias Jay Dee; born James Yancey; February 7, 1974February 10, 2006) was an American hip hop producer and MC, who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip-hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career as "Jay Dee", but used the name "J Dilla" from 2001 on.

About J Dilla

  • If you were to secretly ask the most praised hip-hop producers, if given a top three, who they fear the most, Dilla’s name would chart on everyone’s list, hands down. ~ ?uestlove, drummer from The Roots
  • All the greats respected him the most. ... Common actually stayed with him in his last days -- they both stayed in L.A. together -- and we would go over there when we were working on the album. And I remember him giving me drums. It was such an honor for him to actually give me drums because I'd actually stolen so many drums off of his beat CDs. (laughs) ... Let's also talk about how many rappers bit his style. He even inspired a lot of rappers. The way he would space his words on the beat. The patterns he would get... All that. Whenever people do that, that's Jay Dee all day long. ~ Kanye West, Rapper and Producer, from an interview with Semtex on BBC Radio, February 18th, 2006
  • I can't begin to explain the influence his mind and ear has had on my band, myself, and the careers of so many other artists. The most humble, modest, worthy and gifted beatmaker I've known...and definitely the best producer on a mic. ~ Black Thought, MC from The Roots
  • When I found out Dilla passed, I was in Australia. I did not want to do the show anymore, my mind was heavy. Dilla existed in all of us and I felt a piece of myself was missing. How could I give them my all? But then I thought about Jay on stage in a wheelchair. I HAD to perform. The musicians and the true listeners already knew. I have to spread his legacy to the world, forever. The sounds from The Roots, myself, Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, and of course the slum [Ed. note, Slum Village.] owe to his legacy. Now we are Jay Dee. Rest in peace, Dilla, we love you. ~ Talib Kweli, in one of his blog entries on http://www.talibkweliblog.com
  • Q-Tip comes in the room and says, "I want you to hear something". I'm hella excited 'cause either it's a new Tribe song or it's a beat for me. He tells the kid to put the tape in. He does and I hear a ghostly piano loop that has some shakers in it. Too Salsa for me. That was "Runnin'"! He plays another joint and I go crazy over it. That was "The Jam". He explains to me that the noise I keep flippin' over [is] someone holding the repeat button on the SP when its in 1/32! He played another joint, wasn't my speed. I didn't like the Beastie Boy sample at the top. That was "Drop!" The next joint played and only played for 15 seconds. I wanted that one. He explained that it was just an interlude though. I still wanted it. The next joint was hard, organ sounding joint. Sounds like something a west coast artist would take... w:Ice Cube maybe. That was "Gotta Kick Something That Means Something"! I took three tracks and told Tip that I wanted to add more tracks to the album. He said cool! Yes!!! I got three tracks from Tip!!! Tip looks at me and says, "I didn't make em...he did." I look at the kid and speak to him and he says "What Up Doe?" "What up, kid? What's your name?" "Jay Dee."
  • I knew him for a good three or four years before I knew he was sick! I was blown back by that, man. I never knew he was sick – he always kinda hid it from me. His music will always be alive and well, and I will make sure to that. He was one of the greatest, man. He was the greatest to ever do it, for the new cats. And for his mother to tell me that I was his favorite producer – I was like ‘Wow, that’s dope, man’. He really took it there. He kinda broadened me and opened my eyes again, and got me standing up straight on my toes, ‘cos that dude was really serious with it. ~ Pete Rock [1]
Raekwon: He's up there... He's a silent king. I have a lot of respect for him.
~ Rock the Bells 2006 Interview
  • Dilla was a good cat. He looked out for me, showing me how to work the SP1200, the (MPC) 3000, he used to set me up in his basement, and leave me there all night, while he went out the bar or to mess with some chicks. He was real open-hearted, but he could get on some wild shit. We fell out for a minute, but we mended it and it was all good. He just wanted people to hear the music, but I seen him snap off on cats, he was good people though. He just wanted to make music and do his thing. ~ DJ House Shoes
  • One time we were in the studio and didn't have a drum machine, and he went inside the booth and played the drums on his body. He knew how to EQ it right and everything, like, "Okay, he just made a song using his body." [laughs] It was serious. ~ James Poyser (from the Ruff Draft re-issue liner notes).
  • "That’s how me and Dilla always worked, we had a crazy chemistry. We would just sit there cracking jokes, you know, smoking, he got the headphones on. He’d come up with a beat in like 10 minutes, take the headphones off, the beat’s banging through the speakers. Load it up, make sure the mic’s on, show me where to press play, where to stop at, he’d press record and go upstairs, I’d lay the verse, he’d come back down like done and done. Load the next one up, he’d talk on the phone, I’d lay another song. That’s just how we worked." ~ Phat Kat (on recording the Dedication to the Suckers EP in one night)[2]

By J Dilla



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