J Dilla

J Dilla
J Dilla
Background information
Birth name James Dewitt Yancey
Also known as Jay Dee, J Dilla, Dilla Dawg
Born February 7, 1974(1974-02-07) Detroit, Michigan
Died February 10, 2006(2006-02-10) (aged 32)
Genres Hip hop, neo soul Midwest Hip Hop
Occupations Record producer, rapper, DJ, singer
Instruments Turntables, sampler, drum machine, keyboards, bass guitar, drums, cello, vocals, guitar
Years active 1993–2006
Labels Delicious Vinyl, BBE, MCA, Stones Throw, Bling 47
Associated acts Slum Village, Common, Madlib, Dwele, Guilty Simpson, Frank n Dank Black Milk, Mos Def, J Rocc, Waajeed, Bling47, Bilal, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Karriem Riggins, The Roots, Phat Kat, D'Angelo, Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, Royce Da 5'9"
Website [1]

James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006),[1] better known by the stage names J Dilla and Jay Dee, was an American record producer who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. According to his obituary at NPR.org, he "was one of the music industry's most influential hip-hop artists, working for big-name acts like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and Common."[2]

Renowned producer Pete Rock placed J Dilla on his list of the top five producers of all time,[3] while the editors of About.com ranked him #15 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers.[4] Andy Kellman of Allmusic stated that—by 2004, after being active for well over a decade as a producer—J Dilla had accomplished enough to be considered "an all-time great."[5] J Dilla made the "Elite 8" in the search for The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Vibe.[6] Also, The Source placed him on its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine's twenty-year history.[7]

Yancey's career began slowly. He has now become highly regarded, most notably for the production of critically acclaimed albums by Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Common, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, and Erykah Badu. He was a member of Slum Village and produced their acclaimed debut album Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1) and their follow-up Fantastic, Vol. 2.[1]

In the early 2000s, Yancey's career as a solo artist began to improve; A solo album Welcome 2 Detroit was followed by a collaborative album with California producer Madlib, Champion Sound, which catalyzed the careers of both artists. Just as his music was becoming increasingly popular, Yancey died in 2006 of the blood disease TTP.

Following J Dilla's death, the hip hop community became centered upon his music and image.[8] Many of the artists with whom Yancey worked performed or recorded tributes, and a large group of followers voiced their support for the late musician. Yancey's music experienced a rebirth as the producer gained many times more listeners than he had during his life, partly due to media exposure. Though several posthumous albums have been released and others are planned, the amount of unreleased recordings by the producer remain somewhat undetermined. Yancey's estate has also been controverted.[9]



Early life

James Yancey was the oldest of four children including a younger brother (Earl), a younger sister (Martha) and a younger brother, John, also a rapper/producer known as Illa J. The family lived in a house situated near McDougall and East Nevada, off E. 7 Mile in Detroit.[10] He developed a vast musical knowledge from his parents (his mother is a former opera singer and his father was a jazz bassist). According to his mother, he could "match pitch perfect harmony" by "two-months old", to the amazement of musician friends and relatives.[11] He began collecting vinyl at the age of two and would be allowed to spin records in the park, an activity he enjoyed tremendously as a child.[11]

Along with a wide range of musical genres, Yancey developed a passion for hip hop music. After transferring from Davis Aerospace Technical High School to Detroit Pershing High School, he met classmates T3 and Baatin, and became friends with them through mutual love of rap battles. The three formed a rap group called Slum Village.[12] He also took up beatmaking using a simple tapedeck as the center of his studio.[1] During these teenage years he "stayed in the basement alone" with his ever-growing collection of records, perfecting his craft. He later told Pete Rock when they met years later that "I was trying to be you."[13]

Early career

In 1992, he met experienced Detroit musician Amp Fiddler, who was impressed by what Jay Dee was able to accomplish with such limited tools. Amp Fiddler let Jay Dee use his MPC, which he learned quickly. In 1995, Jay Dee and MC Phat Kat formed 1st Down, and would be the first Detroit hip hop group to sign with a major label (Payday Records) - a deal that was ended after one single when the label folded. That same year he recorded 'Yesteryearz' with 5 Elementz (a group consisting of the late Proof, Thyme and Mudd). In the year 1996, he alongside with T3 and Baatin, recorded the groups debut, Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1)in his home studio. Being released in 1997, the album quickly became popular with fans of Detroit hip hop, as well a gaining the attention of Q-Tip, who hailed the group as successors to A Tribe Called Quest. However, J Dilla felt uncomfortable with the comparison and often voiced it in several interviews.

"It was kinda fucked up [getting that stamp] because people automatically put us in that [Tribe] category. That was actually a category that we didn’t actually wanna be in. I thought the music came off like that, but we didn’t realize that shit then. I mean, you gotta listen to the lyrics of the shit, niggas was talking about getting head from bitches. It was like a nigga from Native Tongues never woulda said that shit. I don’t know how to say it. It’s kinda fucked up because the audience we were trying to give to were actually people we hung around. Me, myself, I hung around regular ass Detroit cats. Not the backpack shit that people kept putting out there like that. I mean, I ain’t never carried no goddamn backpack. But like I said, I understand to a certain extent. I guess that’s how the beats came off on some smooth type of shit. And at that time, that’s when Ruff Ryders [was out] and there was a lot of hard shit on the radio so our thing was we’re gonna do exactly what’s not on the radio."[14]

By the mid 1990s Jay Dee was known as a major hip hop prospect, with a string of singles and remix projects, for Janet Jackson, Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip's solo album and others. The majority of these productions were released without his name recognition, being credited to The Ummah, a production collective composed of Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and later Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!. Under this umbrella, Jay did some of his most big name R&B and hip hop work, churning out original songs and remixes for Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Brand New Heavies, Something For the People, trip hop artists Crustation and many others. This all came off the heels of Jay handling the majority of production on The Pharcyde's album Labcabincalifornia, released in the holiday season of 1995. Jay Dee's largest-scale feat came in 1997 when he produced Janet Jackson's Grammy winning single "Got 'til It's Gone" from The Velvet Rope. The song-writing credit and subsequent Grammy were both given to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Performing career

2000 marked the major label debut of Slum Village with Fantastic, Vol. 2, creating a new following for Jay Dee as a producer and an MC. He was also a founding member of the production collective known as The Soulquarians (along with Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, D'Angelo and James Poyser amongst others) which earned him more recognition and buzz. He subsequently worked with Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Common - contributing heavily to the latter's critically acclaimed breakthrough album, Like Water for Chocolate.[1]

His debut as a solo artist came in 2001 with the single "Fuck the Police", followed by the album Welcome 2 Detroit, which kicked off U.K. Independent record label BBE's "Beat Generation" series. In 2001, Jay Dee, began using the name "J Dilla" (an attempt to differentiate himself from Jermaine Dupri who also goes by "J.D."), and left Slum Village to pursue a major label solo career with MCA Records.

2002 saw Dilla producing the entirety of Frank-N-Dank's 48 Hours, as well as a solo album, but neither record was ever released, although the former did eventually surface through bootlegging.[8] When Dilla finished working with Frank-N-Dank on the 48 Hours album, MCA Records requested a record with a larger commercial appeal, and the artists re-recorded the majority of the tracks, this time using little to no samples. Despite this, neither versions of the album saw the light of day, and Dilla expressed he was disappointed that the music never got out to the fans.

Dilla was signed to a solo deal with MCA Records in 2002 and completed an album in 2003.[8][9] Although Dilla was known as a producer rather than an MC, he chose to rap on the album and have the music produced by some of his favorite producers[15] such as Madlib, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, Supa Dave West, Kanye West, Nottz, Waajeed, Quebo Kuntry (J.Benjamin) and others. The album was shelved due to internal changes at the label and MCA folding into Geffen Records.[9] In a 2007 video interview, Dilla's friend DJ House Shoes alluded to the possibility of the MCA album finally seeing an official release through Stones Throw Records in the future. In April 2008, the album, called Pay Jay, began circulating. BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Benji B played songs from it on his April 18 show, saying that the album is coming out,[16] and people on the internet privately shared and discussed the album.[17]

While the record with MCA stalled, Dilla recorded the uncompromising Ruff Draft, released exclusively to vinyl by German label Groove Attack.[9] Although the album was little known, it signaled a change in sound and attitude, and his work from this point on was increasingly released through independent record labels. In a 2003 interview with Groove Attack, Dilla talked about this change of direction:

You know, if I had a choice, skip the major labels and just put it out yourself man... Trust me. I tell everybody it's better to do it yourself and let the Indies come after you instead of going in their [direction] and getting a deal and you have to wait, it ain't fun, take it from me. Right now, I'm on MCA but it feels like I'm an unsigned artist still. It's cool, it's a blessing, but damn I'm like, 'When's my shit gonna come out? I'm ready now, what's up?'

Later life and death

LA-based producer and MC Madlib began collaborating with J Dilla, and the pair formed the group Jaylib in 2002, releasing an album called Champion Sound in 2003.[1] J Dilla relocated from Detroit to LA in 2004 and appeared on tour with Jaylib in Spring 2004.

J Dilla's illness and medication caused dramatic weight loss in 2003 onwards, forcing him to publicly confirm speculation about his health in 2004. Despite a slower output of major releases and production credits in 2004 and 2005, his cult status remained strong within his core audience, as evident by unauthorized circulation of his underground "beat tapes" (instrumental, and raw working materials), mostly through internet file sharing. Articles in publications URB (March 2004) and XXL (June 2005) confirmed rumors of ill health and hospitalization during this period, but these were downplayed by Jay himself. The seriousness of his condition became public in November 2005 when J Dilla toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. It was later revealed that he suffered from thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease, and possibly lupus.[18]

J Dilla died on February 10, 2006, three days after his 32nd birthday and the release of his final album Donuts, at home in Los Angeles, California. According to his mother, Maureen Yancey, the cause was cardiac arrest.[19]

Posthumous music

Upon his death, Dilla had several projects planned for future completion and release.[1]

The Shining, "75% completed when Dilla died," was completed posthumously by Karriem Riggins and released on August 8, 2006 on BBE Records.[20]

Ruff Draft was reissued as a double CD/LP set in March 2007 and is sometimes considered his third solo album. The reissue contains previously unreleased material from the Ruff Draft sessions and instrumentals. Most notably, it was also released in a cassette tape format, paying homage to Dilla's dirty, grimy sound (he was known for recording over two-tracked instrumentals).[1]

Jay Love Japan was announced in 2005 as his debut release on the Operation Unknown label. The official release remains shrouded in mystery, as various legitimate and illegitimate versions of this mini-album can be bought online and in stores.

Champion Sound, J Dilla's and Madlib's collaborative album, was reissued in June 2007 by Stones Throw Records as a 2CD Deluxe Edition with instrumentals and b-sides.[1]

He also produced three tracks on the 2007 Stones Throw Records 2K Sports NBA 2K8 soundtrack, B-Ball Zombie War.

Dillagence, a mixtape of previously unreleased tracks featuring Busta Rhymes over Dilla's production, was released in November 2007. Busta was one of Dilla's most passionate supporters; on the mixtape, Busta says that, although Dilla's name is not listed in every Busta album, he did in fact contribute to every solo Busta album. The compilation was made free for download from MickBoogie.com.

"Modern Day Gangstaz" (also known as "The Ugliest" and "Dangerous MCs"), a song produced by Dilla featuring vocals from The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, and Labba, which originally appeared in its original form on a mixtape in the late '90s, eventually surfaced in full-length form in 2007.[21] This version, however, is a cut-and-paste job using verses recorded for Biggie's posthumous Born Again album, for which a new beat was used from Nottz.

In 2008, Q-Tip used one of Dilla's beats for his song Move off of The Renaissance.

Yancey Boys, by J Dilla's younger brother John Yancey, was released in 2008 on Delicious Vinyl Records. It is produced entirely by J Dilla and features rapping by his brother, under the name Illa J. Stones Throw Records released a digital instrumental version of the album in 2009.[22]

An album titled Jay Stay Paid (aka J$P) was released in 2009. Despite well-known collaborators rapping over Dilla's music, the involvement of Pete Rock in mixing, and the endorsement of J Dilla's mother, this is the second posthumous J Dilla release whose legitimacy is not fully known. It does not appear in J Dilla's official discography.[23]

In 2009, Mos Def used one of Dilla's beats on his album The Ecstatic. The song, entitled "History", also featured Talib Kweli. Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon also used Dilla beats for his songs "House of Flying Daggers", "Ason Jones", and "10 Bricks" which are all on his critically acclaimed album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II.

In 2010, unreleased production and vocals from J Dilla will be featured on Slum Village's sixth studio album Villa Manifesto, the first album with all five members.


J Dilla leaves behind two daughters.[24] In May 2006, J Dilla's mother announced the creation of "The J Dilla Foundation," which will work to cure people affected by lupus.[1]

Dilla's death has had a significant impact on the hip hop community.[25] Besides countless tribute tracks and concerts, Dilla's death created a wealth of interest in his remaining catalog and, consequently, Dilla's influence on hip hop production became more apparent.[1]

Dave Chappelle gives a special dedication to J Dilla in his movie Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which includes the statement "This film is dedicated to the life and memory of Music Producer J Dilla, aka Jay Dee (James D. Yancey)". The film focuses mostly on members of the Soulquarians, a collective of hip hop musicians of which Yancey was also a member.

J Dilla's music has been used in various television programs. Cartoon Network's late night programing block, Adult Swim, has played the songs "Waves", "Welcome to the Show", and "Mash" during the commercial bumpers in between shows. In May 2010, UK mobile network 02 used Jaylib's "The Red" instrumental in their 'Pool Party' ad.[26] A recent BBC documentary inspired by the olympic runner Usain Bolt, contained two J Dilla-produced songs - "So Far To Go" by Common and "Runnin'" by The Pharcyde.

In February 2007, a year after his death, J Dilla posthumously received the Plug Award's Artist of the Year as well as the award for Record Producer of the Year.[27] In Dilla's hometown of Detroit, House music veteran Carl Craig has fronted a movement to install a plaque in honor of J Dilla in Conant Gardens (where the artist grew up and initiated his career). A resolution for the proposed plaque was passed by the Detroit Entertainment Commission in May 2010, and is currently awaiting approval by the Detroit City Council.[28] J Dilla continues to be remembered as one of the most important figures of the hip hop generation.

Outside of Hip Hop, Dilla has proven to be highly influential to the works of bands and producers within the United Kingdom. Jack Barnett of These New Puritans has been seen occasionally wearing a "J Dilla Changed My Life" t-shirt.[29] The band subliminally honored Dilla by replicating the notable minimal driving drum pattern of 'Jungle Love' from "The Shining" on "InfinityytinifnI" which is found on the album 'Beat Pyramid'. Southend-on-sea shoegaze-punk band The Horrors,[30] London pop bands The xx, Golden Silvers[31] and Mystery Jets[32] alongside electronic producers Joy Orbison,[33] Darkstar[34] and Micachu & Kwes[35] have all cited Dilla as a major musical influence.

Despite these accolades, there have been documented conflicts between his mother and the executor of his estate Arthur Erik regarding future Dilla releases. In an interview with LA Weekly, Erik described how difficult it was for the estate to "protect his legacy" due to bootlegging and unofficial mixtapes.[36] He stressed how important it was for the estate to gather all possible income related to Dilla's name, as Dilla had to borrow money from the government due to mounting medical bills at the end of his life.[36]

A few weeks later Dilla's mother, who has appeared on such unofficial mixtapes such as Busta Rhymes' Dillagence, gave her take on these issues. In addition to stating that Arthur Erik and Dilla's estate has chosen not to communicate with his family, she has stated that he has barred anyone from use of Dilla's likeness or name.[37]

One of the things Dilla wanted me to do with his legacy was to use it to help others, people with illness, kids who were musically gifted but had little hope due to poverty. I wanted to use my contacts to help people out and it was squashed because we weren’t in compliance with the state and there was nothing we could do about it. I’m Dilla’s mother and I can’t use Dilla’s name or likeness, but I know that I still can honor him by doing his work.[37]

Mrs. Yancey also has mentioned that Erik was in fact Dilla's accountant and not his business manager in his lifetime, and that he fell into his position because she and Dilla were first and foremost concerned about his health and not with getting paperwork in order.[37] She also stated that Dilla's friends in the hip hop community, such as Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Madlib, Common and The Roots, have contacted her personally for future projects with Dilla beats, but the estate has vetoed all future projects not contracted prior to Dilla's death.[37] She also implied that Dilla would not support the estate's practices, such as their persecution of bootleggers and file sharers.[37]

Dilla was about love in many formats and for his estate to have done the exact opposite is not having any respect for him or who he was.

Due to Dilla's debt to the government, the family receives no income from projects.[37] Dilla's children are being supported by the social security their mothers have drawn[37] Likewise, Mrs. Yancey is also still paying off Dilla's medical bills that she helped finance, leaving her also in tremendous debt. She still lives in the same Detroit ghetto, is still a daycare worker at Conant Gardens and also suffers from lupus, the same disease which killed Dilla.[37] To help pay the cost of medication and keep her household afloat, Delicious Vinyl donated all proceeds of Jay Dee - The Delicious Vinyl Years to Mrs. Yancey in 2007. In 2008, Giant Peach created a donation paypal account for her and RenSoul.com released a charity mixtape.[38] Despite these actions, it would appear that little income has been generated, as Stones Throw has just released a charity t-shirt on its website.[39]

In a recent article on the family's troubles in Vibe magazines, his mother revealed that the family lost their old home in Detroit due to her taking care of Dilla in his final days.[40] The mother of one of Dilla's children, Monica Whitlow, also broke her silence on the issue of the estate and his legacy:

It pisses me off, everything that's going on with this estate. It's ridiculous 'cause it's been three years, and my baby has not seen anything from this estate.[40]

On January 24, 2010, an announcement was made on j-dilla.com, regarding the J Dilla Estate and the Yancey family.

"The family of late music producer James “J Dilla” Yancey is extremely pleased to announce the appointment of West Coast probate attorney Alex Borden as administrator of Yancey’s estate, and also to announce the establishment of the official J Dilla Foundation. The developments mark a new chapter in preserving and enhancing the legacy of the legendary artist and secure a means of future prosperity for his mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, daughters Ja’Mya Yancey and Ty-Monae Whitlow, and brother, John “Illa J” Yancey."[41]

The J Dilla Estate will be working with the Yancey family in all business dealings of J Dilla's catalog of music...

Notable musical tributes

  • Akrobatik pays tribute to Dilla on his album Absolute Value. In the song "Put Your Stamp on It", he raps "If hip hop is dead then it happened the day that Dilla died". The song was produced by Dilla himself.
  • Erykah Badu's series of New Amerykah albums contains a number of tributes to J Dilla. On New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), Badu first honours Dilla with the song "The Healer", where she sings "this one is for Dilla". She again pays tribute to him on the song "My People", a re-working of the song "People" from J Dilla's album Donuts. The closing song of New Amerykah Part One, "Telephone", draws inspiration from J Dilla's final moments as his mother had described to her, with J Dilla himself having visions about his passage to the afterlife.[42] On New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), Badu pays tribute again to Dilla on the song "Love", a song that J Dilla posthumously produced as well.
  • "Show Me A Good Time" from Drake's album "Thank Me Later" mentions J Dilla
  • Busta Rhymes in collaboration with Mick Boogie, Rah Digga, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli and others, released Dillagence, a mixtape dedicated to J Dilla's memory and featuring songs created using many previously unreleased beats created by J Dilla.[43]
  • "Forever Begins" from Common's album Finding Forever is a tribute to J Dilla.
  • De La Soul pay tribute to Dilla on the track "La La La" off of the NBA Live 10 soundtrack.
  • StevieThunder.com's 2006 instrumental album "More Donuts" paid tribute to his fellow Detroiter J Dilla with 32 Tracks to represent each year of his life, and a picture of his funeral shrine is featured on the back cover artwork.
  • Common's album Finding Forever is an album entirely dedicated to J Dilla, where as Kanye even cut up the samples in methods that J Dilla did.
  • DJ Spinna released an instrumental tribute to J Dilla on vinyl entitled "Dilla is the G.O.A.T." (Greatest of All Time), with Spinna producing a beat in the same vein as J Dilla's song "Nobody Cares About Us" with Phat Kat. DJ Spinna would later release a second tribute to Dilla called "Dillagence", using the same production as "Dilla is the G.O.A.T." and featuring a medley of J Dilla's lyrics performed by Phonte of Little Brother.[44]
  • Dwele on his 2008 album Sketches of a Man pays tribute to J Dilla all over the album, from the album cover (an imitation of Dilla's instrumental album Donuts), to the interludes ("Workin' On It" is a medley of various songs found on Donuts) and the songs "Open Your Eyes"[45] and "Brandi". "Open Your Eyes" is a cover of the Bobby Caldwell song that was sampled by J Dilla for Common's "The Light", from his 2000 album Like Water For Chocolate. "Brandi" contains a sample from "Go Ladies" from J Dilla's former group Slum Village, who also appear on the song, from their 2000 album, Fantastic, Vol. 2.
  • Black Milk mentions J Dilla on various productions of his since his passing. On his 2008 album Tronic, Black Milk rhymes about how J Dilla was an inspiration to him ("Long Story Short") and that he was "the best Hip-Hop producer" ("Bond 4 Life"). On his 2010 album Album of the Year, Black Milk laments that he wishes J Dilla was still around "to hear this new shit" ("Closed Chapter").
  • Flying Lotus pays tribute to J Dilla by remaking the Slum Village track "Fall In Love" in his own signature sound, utilizing the same melody and harmony with a more electronic aesthetic. The song would later be rhymed over in the song "Paid Homage (RIP J Dilla)", from Detroit emcee Finale's album A Pipe Dream and a Promise. Flying Lotus also produced his own rendition of J Dilla's song "Lightworks" with the song "LTWXRMX" from his white label EP Shhhh! released in 2008.
  • Take, in his 2008 album The Dirty Decibels of Thomas Two Thousand, pays tribute to J Dilla on two songs, "Lie-twerx" and "Fall in Love Again", which cover theproductions on "Lightworks" and "Fall in Love" respectively.
  • Robert Glasper, a jazz pianist, pays tribute to J Dilla with the song "J Dillalude". The jazz composition, requested by Q-Tip in a voice message played at the song's onset, is made up of various Dilla productions such as Common's "Thelonius", De La Soul's "Stakes Is High" and Slum Village's "Fall in Love".[46]
  • Hip-Hop producer J. Rawls pays tribute to J Dilla on his side-project The Liquid Crystal Project with a song titled "A Tribute to Dilla", a jazzy rendition of Slum Village's song "Players".[47] J. Rawls later pays tribute again to Dilla with the song "Another Tribute to Dilla" released on vinyl 7", which offers a jazzy cover of the song "Fall in Love".[48]
  • Kardinal Offishall pays tribute to J Dilla on his album Not 4 Sale. At the end of the song "Due Me a Favour", he performs an a cappella rap, stating, "I believe that Dilla was the number one dude in rap".
  • Ladybug Mecca former member of Digable Planets dedicates her song and video "You Never Get Over It" from her solo album "Trip The Light Fantastic" in loving memory of J. Dilla and her mother and father.
  • Madlib and J-Rocc honour J Dilla with two installments of the Beat Konducta series. Beat Konducta Vol. 5: Dil Cosby Suite and Beat Konducta Vol. 6: Dil Withers Suite (later combined into Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to...) are instrumental tributes produced in the same fashion as J Dilla's album Donuts.
  • J-Rocc further commemorates J Dilla with a series of mixes and podcasts entitled "Thank You Jay Dee". The series is divided into four acts and was released yearly from 2006 to 2009. The music contained within is a megamix of J Dilla's sample sources, demonstrating the wide variety of styles and songs Dilla was able to incorporate in creating his music.[49]
  • Producer M-Phazes pays tribute to J Dilla with the track "Raise It Up For Dilla".
  • Pete Rock pays tribute to J Dilla on the album NY's Finest, on the track "Gangsta Boogie".
  • Q-Tip Q-Tip pays tribute to J Dilla on his 2009 album The Renaissance with the songs "Shaka" and "Life is Better". On the former, he calls J Dilla a "master" and raps, "Dilla, having you in my past has been blast, you've inspired so many and forever will you last", and on the latter, he makes mention of J Dilla twice during a verse that recalls some of Hip-Hop's most influential figures.
  • The Roots pay tribute to J Dilla on their 2007 album Game Theory with "Can't Stop This", a song that incorporates J Dilla's song "Time: The Donut of the Heart" as the beat with emcee Black Thought rapping about the impact he had on his life. The song closes with a number of voice messages discussing J Dilla's legacy and influence on Hip-Hop music and over the years. In 2010, The Roots released the instrumental mixtape Dilla Jawns, re-interpreting a variety J Dilla's works.[50] The mixtape would later be rapped over by Dice Raw in his mixtape Dilla, Dice, Pregunte.[51] The Roots again pay tribute to J Dilla, along with deceased Slum Village member Baatin, on the instrumental interlude "Dillatude: Flight of the Titus" from their album How I Got Over.
  • Show & A.G. pays tribute to J Dilla on their song "Business As Usual" from the Live Hard EP, where A.G. rhymes: "Age bitter, J Dilla rest your soul / Gave his life for this hip hop shit, y'all don't hear me though".
  • Termanology recorded a hip hop mixtape tribute to J Dilla titled "If Heaven Was A Mile Away"
  • Dan-e-o released a 2 in 1 album/mixtape entitled Dilla Pickles in honor of J Dilla.
  • Lightworks Recordings, record label based in Hawaii, was named in honor of J Dilla based on the track Lightworks off of the Donuts album.
  • The Roots made a mixtape called Dilla Jawns (previously "Dilla Joints", renamed by Questlove as "joints" is an ambiguous term) covering 14 Dilla beats on what would have been his 36th birthday in February 2010.
  • A Suite for Ma Dukes is a live musical tribute to J Dilla arranged and conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson with the help of Carlos Nino and a 60-piece orchestra. Originally a four-song EP of a selection of J Dilla's works, the project expanded and culminated into a series of live events that were recorded for a subsequent live album release. The concert, the second in the Timeless Conductor Series presented by Mochilla, included orchestral renditions of several J Dilla's productions and featured appearances by soul singers Dwele and Bilal, rappers Posdnous, Talib Kweli and Illa J, along with various instrumental and vocal contributions by some of Dilla's close collaborators like Karriem Riggins, Shafiq Husayn, Thundercat and Amp Fiddler. Atwood-Ferguson said, "Dilla’s music is so heartfelt, soulful and transcendent. It is perfect for someone like me to reinterpret and celebrate in my own way. It’s really been fun for me to explore his music in an orchestral setting."[52]
  • On J. Cole's "Knock Knock" from his popular mixtape, "The Warm-Up" the song open's with the line: "Sometime's play the villain, sometimes play the hero. Sometimes I be Dilla, sometimes I be Preemo.
  • Nottz pays a tribute to J Dilla in the song "Shine So Brite" on the album "You Need This Music".
  • Lettuce, the funk band pays tribute with their song "Mr. Yancey".
  • Danny! pays tribute to J Dilla on the track "Check It Out", a re-interpretation of the A Tribe Called Quest single Find A Way, which was produced by Dilla.
  • Hip-Hop producer 14KT released an instrumental album Nowalataz, inspired by J Dilla's album Donuts. The album's name is derived from 14KT's favourite snackbar Now & Laters, and is named in the same way that Dilla titled his album Donuts out of his joy of eating donuts. The music from Nowalataz is in keeping with the methodology and sound of Donuts as well, with regard to the soulful samples and beat production techniques used. Nowalataz is 14KT's second tribute to J Dilla, following the song "Without Dilla (Donut 2 Dilla Feb. 06')" from his debut album Golden Hour Soundtrack released in 2008.[53]
  • UK Hip Hop artist Ricta pays tribute to Dilla on the track "'Bout To" on the Expocate EP "This is a verse that I dedicate to J Dilla".
  • Stray Phrases, a jazz trio from New York City, covered the entirety of J Dilla's album Donuts during live performances throughout the end of 2010 and early 2011.[54]
  • On Massilo Ohio rapper Stalley's mixtape "Lincoln Way Nights", he refers to Dilla in the song "Tell Montez I Love Her" with this line: "You was the first to introduce me to Dilla, and until this day I ain't never heard nobody realer".
  • Kansas artist XV released a 6 song EP titled "Thanks For The Donuts", strictly using beats produced by J. Dilla.
  • Skillz, Q-Tip, and Peanut Butter Wolf pay homage in memory of Dilla on the web series Hip Hop Confessions (episode 6) trading stories about the producer.
  • On Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller's "The Jukebox" Mixtape, he does his own rendition of "So Far To Go"
  • For “Too Deep For the Intro,” on the "Friday Night Lights" Mixtape, J. Cole sped up “Didn't Cha Know” which Dilla infamously produced for Erykah Badu.
  • Drake shouts out Dilla in the song "Show me a good time" from his Debut Major Label LP "Thank me Later", Drake raps: "...I came up from the underground though, so imma spend another ten thousand for dilla..."
  • Immortal Technique in his single Toast to the Dead, from his free Mixtape The Martyr raps, "J Dilla's still alive as long as his music is." The production of the song is credited to J Dilla himself.


Year Artist Album Label
1997 Slum Village Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1) Donut Boy Recordings/2006 re-release: Counterflow
2000 Slum Village Fantastic, Vol. 2 Goodvibe
2000 Slum Village (as J-88) Best Kept Secret EP Groove Attack
2000 Jay Dee Fuck the Police b/w Move 12" Up Above Records
2001 Jay Dee Welcome 2 Detroit Barely Breaking Even
2003 Jay Dee Ruff Draft Mummy/Groove Attack, Stones Throw
2003 Jaylib Champion Sound Stones Throw
2006 J Dilla Donuts Stones Throw
2006 J Dilla The Shining Barely Breaking Even
2008 J Dilla Jay Love Japan Operation Unknown, official release uncertain
2009 J Dilla Jay Stay Paid Nature Sounds
2010 J Dilla Donut Shop Stones Throw/Serato
2012 J Dilla Rebirth of Detroit TBR


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j allmusic Biography
  2. ^ NPR: Hip-Hop Producer, Rapper Jay Dee AKA J Dilla
  3. ^ Langhorne, Cyrus (2011-04-08). "Pete Rock Names His Top 5 Dead Or Alive Beatmakers". Sohh.Com. http://www.sohh.com/2011/04/pete_rock_names_his_top_5_dead_or_alive.html. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  4. ^ "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers". Rap.about.com. http://rap.about.com/od/toppicks/ss/Top50Producers_7.htm. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  5. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Jay Dee". AllMusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jay-dee-p176601/biography. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  6. ^ "The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer Of All Time (Bracket)". VIBE. http://www.vibe.com/hiphopproducer. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ JLBarrow (2008-08-19). "Source Mag Picks Twenty Greatest Producers". Nodfactor.Com. http://www.nodfactor.com/2008/08/19/349/. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  8. ^ a b c Haleem, Aadel. Jay Dee Interview. GrooveAttack.de. Accessed April 8, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d Liner notes by Ronnie Reese, Ruff Draft (2007)
  10. ^ Let it roll (Metro Times Detroit)
  11. ^ a b (Scheme Magazine)
  12. ^ http://www.j-dilla.com/biography
  13. ^ (HNNLive.com)
  14. ^ http://www.xxlmag.com/features/2010/02/j-dilla-the-lost-interview-circa-2004/3/
  15. ^ J Dilla, Ruff Draft (2007), liner notes
  16. ^ BBC 1Xtra Benji B Deviation 4/18/08 show
  17. ^ Fans discuss MCA album, Pay Jay
  18. ^ Detroit Free Press, February 23, 2006
  19. ^ "James Yancey, Producer Known for Soulful Hip-Hop, Dies at 32", The New York Times, February 14, 2006.
  20. ^ Detroit Free Press, June 29, 2006
  21. ^ ICEDOTCOM: Search results for dilla
  22. ^ Stone Sthrow Store
  23. ^ "Music". J-dilla.com. http://j-dilla.com/music/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  24. ^ OneTwoOneTwo interview J Dilla's uncle
  25. ^ XXLmag.com | Hip-Hop On A Higher Level | » Leave J Dilla’s corpse alone
  26. ^ "O2 – Pool Party". TV Ad Music. 2010-05-15. http://www.tvadmusic.co.uk/2010/05/o2-pool-party/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  27. ^ Band Of Horses, J Dilla Reap PLUG Awards
  28. ^ "J. Dilla Plaque Proposed To Stand In Conant Gardens". The Loop Detroit. 2010-05-30. http://theloopdetroit.com/2010/05/j-dilla-plaque-proposed-to-stand-in-conant-gardens/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  29. ^ "These New Puritans". YouTube. 2008-04-21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTarQ71CbeU. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  30. ^ Ubaghs, Charles (2009-05-06). "Fade to black: DiS meets The Horrors / In Depth // Drowned In Sound". Drownedinsound.com. http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4136775. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  31. ^ "Band To Watch: Golden Silvers". Stereogum. 2009-10-23. http://stereogum.com/97151/band_to_watch_golden_silvers/franchises/band-to-watch/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  32. ^ "MYSTERY JETS « New music, features, reviews, news and free mp3s –". Loudandquiet.com. http://www.loudandquiet.com/2010/05/mystery-jets/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  33. ^ "Joy Orbison Interview". Get Some Uk. 2009-10-14. http://getsomeuk.com/?p=82. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  34. ^ Text: Charlie Robin Jones Photography: Mikael Gregorsky. "Darkstar: "We work better when it's black and pretty active." | Dummy » Features". Dummymag.com. http://www.dummymag.com/features/2009/11/23/darkstar-we-work-better-when-it-s-black-and-pretty-active-/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  35. ^ "Blog Archive » Interview / Mica Levi". Pffffft. 2009-02-22. http://pffffft.com/interview-mica-levi. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  36. ^ a b "Who's Biting J Dilla's Beats?"
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h "An Interview with J Dilla's Mother, Mrs. Maureen Yancey"
  38. ^ "Ma Dukes Donations"
  39. ^ "Donation Shirt for Ma Dukes"
  40. ^ a b "The Battle for J Dilla's Legacy"
  41. ^ "
  42. ^ Alternatives Reviews : Erykah Badu: New AmErykah Part One (4th World War)
  43. ^ "Busta Rhymes - Dillagence Hosted by J Dilla // Free Mixtape @". Datpiff.com. 2007-11-29. http://www.datpiff.com/Busta-Rhymes-J-Dilla-Dillagence-mid8707.html. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  44. ^ "DJ Spinna - Dillagence (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/DJ-Spinna-Dillagence-The-Spirit-Of-94/release/1254730. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  45. ^ this was posted in our Youtube Talent Section (2010-05-01). "Youtube Talent: Ebrahim M. Lakhani – Open Your Eyes - TheNext2Shine:Exclusive RNB Music Downloads". Blog.thenext2shine.com. http://blog.thenext2shine.com/2010/youtube-talent-ebrahim-m-lakhani-open-your-eyes. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  46. ^ "Robert Glasper: J Dillalude – Jazz.com | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News". Jazz.com. 2008-01-18. http://www.jazz.com/music/2009/3/23/j-dillalude. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  47. ^ "J. Rawls Presents Liquid Crystal Project, The - The Liquid Crystal Project at Discogs". Discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/J-Rawls-Presents-Liquid-Crystal-Project-The-Liquid-Crystal-Project/master/66470. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  48. ^ "J. Rawls Presents Liquid Crystal Project, The - Digital Funky / Another Tribute To Dilla (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. 2008-08-15. http://www.discogs.com/J-Rawls-Presents-Liquid-Crystal-Project-Digital-Funky-Another-Tribute-To-Dilla/release/1414916. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  49. ^ "Thank You Jay Dee, Act 1 | Stones Throw Records". Stonesthrow.com. http://www.stonesthrow.com/news/2010/01/thank-you-jay-dee-act-1. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  50. ^ "The Roots – Dilla Jawns [Mixtape]". Okayplayer.com. 2010-04-05. http://www.okayplayer.com/news/The-Roots-Dilla-Jawns-Mixtape-.html. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  51. ^ "Dice Raw – Dice, Dilla, Pregunta [Mixtape]". Okayplayer.com. 2010-04-15. http://www.okayplayer.com/news/Dice-Raw-Dice-Dilla-Pregunta-Mixtape.html. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  52. ^ "TIMELESS INTERVIEW: Suite for Ma Dukes Composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson". Thecouchsessions.com. 2010-04-15. http://www.thecouchsessions.com/2010/04/interview-suite-for-ma-dukes-composer-miguel-atwood-ferguson/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  53. ^ "14KT - Nowalataz LP // Buy Now". // A-Side Worldwide. http://www.asideworldwide.com/blog/14kt-nowalataz-lp-download/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  54. ^ "J Dilla’s Donuts Performed By Stray Phrases by TheSmokingSection on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free". Soundcloud.com. http://soundcloud.com/thesmokingsection/donuts-live. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 

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