If you’re a fan of the late legendary Hip Hop/neo soul producer J Dilla, you’ll know how much he is loved around the world as a prolific producer, beat maker and musician. He has produced tracks for the likes of Slum Village, The Roots, Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, The Roots, The Pharcyde… The list is as huge as his respect from fans and artists alike.
Many of my favourite Hip Hop joints have been produced by J Dilla, aka Jay Dee, despite not always being aware at the time he was the producer. Recently, I dug out some of my Erykah Badu and D’angelo albums (amongst others), just to listen closer to that ‘Dilla’ sound, the smooth breaks with that organic feel that made me instantly like them so much. That’s the beauty of true authentic art. You’re not meant to notice the technicalities or the cracks and imperfections, but it’s those things that make them so special and stand shoulders above the rest.
Legendary J Dilla
J Dilla first made his mark as a producer for Slum Village, in his home town of Detroit and in the early 2000s went on to have a solo career and collaborations. Anyone will tell you that this only skims the surface of his catalogue. I won’t go into details, I would suggest you listen to anything he was involved in and go from there. You’ll discover the enormous amount of praise and respect he receives and recognise it was all well deserved. Needless to say, his status amongst artist, fans, beat makers, vinyl seekers, musicians and those that ‘know’ is that close to a deity.
Upon his untimely death in 2006, he had already amassed a huge collection of production credits on a variety of diverse projects. He is widely regarded as “one of the most influential Hip Hop artists” and a “producers favourite producer”.
Sadly, after suffering for a long time with the blood disease thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpuran, in February 2006, J Dilla died at 32 years old. His legacy lives on. His dedication to his craft is legendary. Stories about his beat making methods, his mastery of equipment and rolling up to gigs in his wheelchair have given him cult status and inspired musicians worldwide. J Dilla underground beat tapes have being circulated and bootlegged, tribute albums have been produced and his work has been translated for a 60-piece orchestra.
Timeless – Suite for Ma Dukes
This orchestrated homage to J Dilla’s work, brings me to why I’m writing this.
Timeless – Suite for Ma Dukes – composed and arranged by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson in 2009, pays tribute to Dilla, interpreting his work into sublime orchestral pieces. It features artists such as Bilal, Common, Dwele, Karriem Riggins, Posdnuos, Talib Kweli and more. Timeless – Suite for Ma Dukes is, as well as everything else Dilla put his hand to, well a worth a listen.
Here is a work in progress. My own version of the Timeless – Suite for Ma Dukes album cover.
I wanted to capture Dilla’s intricate style, the classical elements, his layered loops and samples. I wanted to create something that looked elegant, intricate and, well, “timeless”.
J Dilla aka James Yancey, Jay Dee 1974-2006.
The Pharcyde – Drop (1995)
Raekwon – House of Flying Daggers (2009)
Suite For Ma Dukes Orchestra – Untitled / Fantastic (A Tribute To J Dilla) (2009)