Happy Birthday James Yancey

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Check out Dilla tributes this month marking the third year after his death on February 10, 2006.

Three years ago one of hip-hop’s most elusive magician’s passed at the age of 32 from lupus and a rare blood disease. James “J Dilla” Yancey began his musical life as a member of a family immersed in music from generations back. His brother John who released an album last year under the stage name Illa J talked about the family’s musical heritage in my interview with him.The popular anecdote his mother shared about him having perfect pitch by age 2 and trying to dance to James Brown at age 3 preceded a precociousness that made him vicious with any found sound he could manipulate in his lab. Detroit’s fertile creative backdrop of Motown, jazz, dance music, hip-hop and R&B gave him plenty of inspiration that came out in his work as a teenaged DJ and then a young man who started making records in ’95 with MC Phat Kat. By the time the ’90’s were done he was a majestic remixer who outgrew the lessons of legendary muses like Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, Premier and several other noted beatsmiths. His seamless compositions that comprised analog and digital tools were soulful, slick and minted boom bap that charmed ears and bodies but left his peers in awe. Just Blaze recalled listening to a Dilla beat all day trying to dissect its essence only to give up in frustration the way a young apprentice bows to a master. Dilla’s amazing dexterity made him a producer’s producer and the sweetest secret to fans who found him underground beneath the brouhaha surrounding his better-known peers who crowded hip-hop media. Hip-hop scholars love to talk about all the nifty nuances of his work such as the Large Professor who lauded his last album Donuts for having a modern sound built on deceptively simple hip-hop fundamentals. Unfortunately his hermit-like personality and unexpected death did not allow him to receive the recognition he deserved. You can find his discography online that shows his trail through projects for The Roots, Tribe Called Quest, Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Frank N Dank, his personal group Slum Village, collaborations with Madlib, time spent with The Ummah and a bunch of remixes. Some of my favorite Dilla tracks are:

Come Get It

JAY DEE aka J DILLA – Come Get It
Found at bee mp3 search engine


Q-Tip- Breathe And Stop

Erykah Badu-Didn’t Cha Know

Slum Village-Get Dis Money