10th February marks the anniversary of James Dewitt Yancey’s death, a producer better known by his stage names “Jay Dee”, and, later, “J Dilla”. His talent and legacy may not have been as extroverted and brash as a lot of his contemporaries but it’s safe to say without him, they wouldn’t have a career to speak of. Everyone who knew him marvelled at his ability and respected his humbleness and personality. But there was so much more to J Dilla than his beats and the countless number of bootlegs and swiped “prod. by J Dilla” tracks you find floating around on Soundcloud. He was a highly competent musician and composer, possessing the unique quality of “perfect pitch”, a rare ability where someone can identify a given note without a reference, something he exhibited from as early as 2.
Below are a selection of articles about Dilla and his life, behind the music and opinions on revisionism over his ability. We highly recommend you listen to some Jay Dee while you read. It makes sense.
- Pay Jay in your own way – After his death in 2006, the J Dilla cult started to grow and his career started to be revised by their hiding fans. Seven years after, his name is among the true geniuses of hip hop, but… should we keep on revising history? (PlayGroundMag)
- Let’s Talk: Sampling in J Dilla’s Donuts – Not really an article but a Reddit user questioned the credentials of Dilla’s Donuts and these were the proceeding comments. From a personal perspective, I much prefer this level of discourse over people calling him “overrated” without a solid argument. Worth a read. (Reddit)
- The legacy of J Dilla continues – Visionary hip-hop producer J Dilla never found mainstream success during his brief lifetime. But in the eight years since his death, Dilla — who would have turned 40 [on 7th] — has come to represent a major influence point on hip-hop’s evolutionary tree. (The Quad)
- 10 Facts About J Dilla You Might Not Know – Indeed, J Dilla changed our lives. And in homage we present 10 Facts About J Dilla You Might Not Know about his storied life. Raise it up for one of the all-time greats. J Dilla 4ever. (Complex)
- Survival Test: J Dilla, and why posthumous releases miss the point – Too often those most talented among us are taken away too soon. Thankfully, we can always celebrate their lives and pay our dues that way. We can keep the memory alive through the art they leave behind. With modern musicians, this celebrating has increasingly involved monetising the art left behind, sometimes past the point of what is acceptable. As fans and consumers, where should we draw the line? (Fact Mag)
- Top 11 Producers Influenced by J Dilla– Word Is Bond chose 11 producers influenced and inspired by J Dilla. (Word Is Bond)
- The Beat Generation: The J Dilla Effect – The last two weeks I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time listening to the late great James Yancey. I have nothing new to add to his technical prowess as an innovator of the beats AND of the flow. He’s been written about graciously and comprehensively since his passing 2 years ago. At this point, all we can do as hip hop fans is hit repeat on “Stakes is High” or “Fuck the Police” and vibe in our cars with the King of the Hand Clap. (Passion Weiss)