What can be said about James Dewitt Yancey that hasn’t already been said? The late, great Detroit producer has put out an unparalleled amount of beat tapes, side-projects, and unknown releases you’d only know from being, like, cousins with the guy who designed the backside of the limited edition EP’s that he helped to make so “limited”. After being an avid fan of his for years and years, I still come across new Dilla shit I haven’t ever heard before, even with over 800 of his songs in my iTunes library.
Engaging, unique, different, are all words I’d use to describe the sound of J Dilla. His music transcends genres, eras, time signatures, and minds at the pace few other artists ever reach. I’ve been consumed by his sound ever since I heard the first siren “whirr!!” on Donuts, the last album he released while still on Earth. His life was tragically cut short by a rare blood disease in 2006, days after his 32nd birthday. I was in high school when I heard he died, and unfortunately, that was how I started getting into his music. Crazy how things like that happen, sometimes.
Life is short. It is a million and a half little moments tied together between action and movement, and then it’s over. I’m only 10 years shy of Yancey’s age when he passed away as I write this, yet look what he accomplished in that time. Busta Rhymes, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Dwele, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and The Pharcyde are only a few names of the people he’s worked with. Guess I got my work cut out for me. The clout of the Dilla legacy, his ideas that threw a curve ball towards the whole genre, ideas that still get reached for today, transcends the concept of a legend and hangs somewhere between myth and folklore. His music never, never dies.
Here’s a tribute song made by the next-level producer SWARVY, who’s celebrating his own born day today. Coincidence??? By the way, he just put out a dope 30-track album you need to listen to. Go do that.
And here are some of my favourites. Turn it up, like Dilla says… Happy Birthday, Dilla. Thanks for everything.
Rest in peace.