photo & text by nacrowe
by the time of his untimely passing in 2006 at the young age of thirty-two from cardiac arrest related to his ongoing battle with LUPUS, LEGENDARY DETROIT HIP HOP producer J DILLA was an INNOVATIVE, highly sought after COLLABORATOR and BEAT-MAKER of the first order whose INSPIRED COMPOSITIONS were appreciated and utilized by the likes of A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, DE LA SOUL, RAEKWON, THE PHARCYDE, D'ANGELO, ERYKAH BADU and COMMON to BUSTA RHYMES, THE ROOTS, EMINEM, MF DOOM, BILAL, REDMAN, MADLIB and TALIB KWELI among many others before and after his passing. his UNIQUE sense of RHYTHM, which he performed by hand on his AKAI MPC3000 sequencer-sampler, made use of disengaging the quantize setting (which when engaged essentially sets everything to a grid).
let's take a moment to make one thing absolutely clear.
J DILLA did not live on the grid. he was his own METRONOME and basically humanized HIP HOP production making the RIGID TECHNOLOGY ebb and flow organically almost like a JAZZ MUSICIAN. he referred to such RHYTHMIC EXPERIMENTATIONS as "drunk funk." his touch is something that has influenced countless producers in his wake, but obviously has not been replicated. DONUTS (STONES THROW, 2006) proved to be his final recording and was created as his DIMINISHED and ENFEEBLED physical limitations rendered him wheelchair-bound as he was losing his battle with LUPUS. the album showcases a SINGULAR composer and BEAT-MAKER at the top of his game (and the profession) as his SOUNDSCAPES and COLLAGES seamlessly transition from one EVOCATIVE aural landscape to the next. it proves that in spite of his physical debilitation, his CREATIVE SPARK and COGNITIVE ABILITIES were as on point as ever right to the end. such can be heard on STANDOUT tracks such as "GEEK DOWN," "TWO CAN WIN," "DON'T CRY," "WORKINONIT," "U-LOVE," "GOBSTOPPER" and "LAST DONUT OF THE NIGHT." my suggestion however is to listen to DONUTS in its entirety as one extended sonic MEDITATION.
it does not disappoint and is a fitting EXCLAMATION POINT on a career and talent cut down way too soon. his legacy is continued by those who take INSPIRATION from his SOUND including current PIONEERING producers and musicians like FLYING LOTUS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS, THUNDERCAT, DANGER MOUSE and TERRACE MARTIN among others. its interesting to consider that in retrospect many critics have considered him to be more of a JAZZ musician than a HIP HOP producer which only further proves his SUBTLE TOUCH and DEFT MUSICALITY that seemingly knew no limitations. his ART very much seemed to be a flawlessly composed, direct EMOTIONAL expression in and of the current moment a la JOHN COLTRANE, MAX ROACH or THELONIOUS MONK.
RIP JAY DEE