Happy Birthday Dilla. One Won't Do...

Tuesday, March 28 2000: I was 15 years old.

Come to think of it, I JUST turned 25 so that makes this memory exactly ten years old.
*Flavor Flav voice* WAAAAAAAAAAW.
After hearing Common's verse on "Respiration" by Black Star I did some digging and found his third album, "One Day It'll All Make Sense" produced by his main producer NO ID.
Once I had heard that his follow up, "Like Water For Chocolate" was coming out I saved all my money and made sure that I would be at my local Media Play RIGHT after school.
I was already geeked that Com collaborated with DJ Primer for "6th Sense" so I, like any kid at the time that proudly wore the badge of "backpacker", expected to hear some NO ID beats.
But by the time I got to "Doonit" I was into a whole 'nother universe of sonics.


Jay Dee

"Like Water For Chocolate" was my very first introduction to J Dilla, known then as Jay Dee.
Needless to say that I never got any homework done that night I bought LWFC.
I made it my bidniss, as my granddaddy would say, to wake up every morning to "Heat" and "Cold Blooded" and go to bed with, in my opinion the BEST song on LWFC, "Nag Champa."
Yes, yes y'all I absorbed this album as a piece of my consciousness, weaving it's rhythms into the fabric of my life so that I could escape through it in my dreams.
After hearing Dilla's work on LWFC I did more research for his material.
I could only get my hands on certain things so my next purchase was

Slum Village's "Fantastic Vol. 2"

Now to be honest, I did not understand this album at the time it dropped.
The beats were so raw but the rhymes were wack to me; well, except for Dilla's verses.
After a long discussion with my man Marcel (whom I credit for putting me on to soooo many Dilla rarities) I finally understood that most of the rhymes were freestyled; so I gave it another listen and I SWEAR to you I know EVERY word.
Where "LWFC" taught me to hit hard lyrically and write subject matter for songs "Fantastic Vol. 2" taught me how to create a certain vibe in a session to bring it to a record.

Fast forward to Tuesday, February 7th 2006: I had just turned 21 and waltzed out of Tower Records with "Donuts" in my hands.
Again, I didn't really understand the album.
I read about it on Okayplayer but I didn't expect it to have NO rhymes on it; this is the first time I heard a beat tape.
The more research I did on Donuts the more I understood it, as well as the more I played it, the more I liked it.
Illastrate recently told me how some beats were crafted from the intro, hook, verse and outro of the sample; I also read that Dilla tried to actually speak through certain beats to any MC that 'got' where you were supposed to rhyme at.
My favorite Donuts are "Last Donut Of The Night" and "Stop!"
"Stop!" stood out to me because of how Dilla flipped the Dionne Warrick sample, and after hearing Just Blaze flip it on Usher's "Confessions" I was exposed to yet another way of translating perspective to a listener.
A few days later would bring the sad news of Dilla's passing on February 10th 2006.
I found myself in a 2 hour phone conversation with Marcel about the legacy this man has.

Sunday, February 7th 2010:

When it comes to music it's Dilla's work ethic that inspires and motivates me the most-the man just never stopped working.
On his deathbed he was crafting Donuts and other music.
While he was stricken with Lupus and bound to a wheelchair, he did shows like
"Who stoppin me?!"
Every time I open a conversation with Dilla as a topic with anyone, I learn more new things about this man.
Thumbing through every memories as a youth I realize that Dilla's music is there as a soundtrack of sorts.
This is where Dilla changed my life: with music.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said my brother... If you've never heard welcome to Detroit, I highly recommend it. Where I already know of Jay Dee from De La Soul and Busta Rhymes, I copped this album excitedly from Newbury Comics, and it was the soundtrack to my life for at least the following 2 years... I rode the bus, my bike and shotgun in my boy's whips, with J Dilla's 'Pause', 'The Clapper', the anthemic 'Give It Up' and the flipped beat at the end of 'It's Like That', seaping from the headphones or blasting out of the speakers...

    Hands down, James Dewitt Yancey is the greatest to ever do it...

    (PS... I recommend the Lucy Pearl 'Without You' remix to any Dilla head... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDxOXIkvyMM ) CLASSIC!!!!!!