James “J Dilla” Yancey would have turned 38 today.
Just over six months after the Detroit producer’s death due to complications related to his lupus condition, I wrote a story in 2006 for the Associated Press about Dilla’s posthumously released CD “The Shining.”
I talked to Busta Rhymes, Karreim Riggins, Common, ?uestlove, and Dilla’s mother who all agreed to talk lovingly about their brother and son.
Most expressed their awe of his talent and that they were still adjusting to the idea that they wouldn’t be able to witness again Dilla hunched over some piece of equipment trying to coax new noises and beat bits from its innards.
Read what I wrote then about what his friends and family had to say about one of hip-hop’s greatest beat technicians.
The late hip-hop producer J Dilla was full of unique ideas.
“‘I don’t even want you to rhyme,'” Rhymes recalls J Dilla telling him last year in the beatmaker’s Los Angeles home studio. “‘I just want you to wild out, on some charged up vibe.'”
Rhymes obliged, shouting between expletives: “This is an emergency! There’s a fire! J Dilla, that’s the fire!”
However, the rapper had no idea it’d be the last time he’d see his friend and frequent collaborator.Months later and three days after his 32nd birthday in February, J Dilla (born James Yancey) died of complications related to lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect a person’s blood, skin, joints and kidneys.
The resulting song, “Geek Down,” is a not-quite two minute blast of energy that opens “The Shining,” a posthumous disc of atmospheric instrumental tracks and hypnotic rap songs from one of underground hip-hop’s most prolific beat builders.
The Detroit-born producer, also known as Jay Dee, was highly regarded for creating bottom-heavy, soulful tracks for several R&B; and hip-hop luminaries including Common, Erykah Badu and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.
Karreim Riggins, a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer from Detroit, was asked to complete “The Shining” the way Dilla wanted it done. They had already recorded nearly eight of the disc’s 12 songs before Dilla died, and Dilla’s instrumental album, “Donuts,” was actually released just days before his death.
Of “The Shining,” Riggins says, “the plan was to do a lot of old breaks, make it sound live, make people question it like, ‘How did you do that?'”
Read the rest here.
And watch ?uestlove describe how Dilla made the “Little Brother” beat:
- J-Dilla Remembered by Hip-Hop Fans Worldwide; Honored in Detroit with ‘Dilla Day’ (allhiphop.com)
- J Detroit I to the L L A (bigeyeslittlesoles.com)
- J Dilla: Shine On (thefader.com)