by scott c
Last week signaled the end of an era, when MC/ producer James Yancey, aka Jay Dee, aka J Dilla, passed away in Los Angeles as a result of complications from the disease Lupus. Some might remember, back in 2004, when rumours that Dilla was in a coma started circulating, later to be revealed as a health matter under control, generating from problems with malnutrition and his kidneys. That same year, he appeared in an Urb interview with Madlib to push the then-new Jaylib LP Champion Sound, looking unusually plump as a result of his illness.
Then, in late 2005, truly saddening pictures of a tour in Europe and the U.K. did the rounds, showing a frail and emaciated Dilla performing to packed houses from the confines of a wheelchair, his mother watching from the wings. My first thought then was that something was terribly wrong. It was strange for him to be touring in between releases, let alone with his mother in tow, being carried on and off stage by members of his entourage. Why would anyone choose to go out on the road in this condition? Strangely, his management played down the apparent severity of the situation and tried to reassure distraught fans everywhere that everything was fine, stating that Dilla was indeed on the road to recovery. I see now that touring when he did was perhaps his last chance to get out there and connect with true heads, many of whom had never seen the elusive workaholic live on stage.
Now, I’ve been writing about music for a minute, and I’ve been a DJ in love with great musical expressions for even longer, but I have to say that no one artist, group, producer or performer has had a greater impact or influence on me than J Dilla. His body of work is extensive, most notably having worked production magic for A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, the Pharcyde, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Blackstar, Erykah Badu, Bilal, the Roots, D’Angelo, Common and Slum Village. Tracking his remixes might be a bit of an undertaking as well, given his teaming up with names like Jamiroquai, Janet Jackson, Macy Gray, Zhanè, Spacek, Innerzone Orchestra, DJ Cam, Daft Punk, Four Tet and the Brand New Heavies. The list goes on and on. Dilla had the ability to produce lush, breathtakingly soulful arrangements, or come with the rough, rugged and raw sounds of his hometown Detroit, where his legendary beats saved many a mediocre rapper from complete obscurity.
I consider Dilla one of the greatest hip hop/soul producers ever, and although I never met or spoke to the man, I will miss him very much now that he’s gone. Jay Dee R.I.P.
WE KEEP IT GHET-TO WITH THE PLASTIC CUPS...