Declench your fists – this isn’t that kind of guide.
Frontrunner published an article called How to Produce Music Like: J Dilla (now deleted) and, from the title, I was a little sceptical. But rather than suggesting to copy the late producer, the post discussed helpful advice including:
- Choose Your Samples Wisely
- Get Comfortable Playing in the Pocket
- Find Fat Kicks and Snappy Snares
- Use Filters to Isolate Specific Sounds
- Let the Beat Loop
- Strive to Make It Personal — Not “Perfect”
None of the suggestions were specific to Dilla’s essence (there’s no mention of his signature swing which is often mentioned in how-to videos) and that’s the beauty of inspiration for me. And we all know we can never actually produce music like J Dilla. But as Waajeed said in an interview with Dummy:
“[Dilla] needs to be de-mystified. When you build someone into this quasi-holy figure you separate them from yourself and that’s not what I want to do. I want people to be inspired.”Waajeed
But my favourite tip was Strive to Make It Personal — Not “Perfect”. It’s something a lot of musicians fail to do because of the ever-promoted idea of perfectionism. It worked for some – Prince and Michael Jackson as two examples off the top of my head – but they also made personal music. No offence, but you’ll never get to those levels.
So ask yourself what your idea of perfect is and whether you’re just copying someone else’s “perfection”. Then strip it away and make it personal. Examples of that are producers like Madlib and Knxwledge. They make “sloppy” music but it’s dope and with feeling. Go for that.