J Dilla’s Lasting Legacy

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James Dewitt Yancey was born on February 7th 1974.  What he was able to achieve in terms of musical progression in the 32 years that he was allotted on this earth was quite simply amazing. From original compositions and remixes in the mid to late 90’s to jaw dropping, mind-boggling soundscapes of the early 00’s, Dilla’s penchant for pushing boundaries is that something that is still lauded and awe-inspiring to this day, even 12 years after his death.

As as a youngster discovering sounds and more importantly Hip-Hop for the first time, I was introduced to J Dilla’s work long before I knew who he was. Listening to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, The Roots and D’Angelo I had no idea that many of the songs that I loved from these artists were in fact produced by him. It wasn’t until early in my college career that I discovered the man behind many of the songs that I deemed classics. If it wasn’t for “J.J.” I seriously doubt that I would have made those connections when I did, so for that I’m forever grateful.

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Once that light bulb went on however, I did my Due DILLAgence and began searching, scouring the net,  the brick and mortar stores and iTunes at the time for all things Jay Dee related. From there I really got into Madlib and Nujabes, the former is one who I strongly consider to be a direct contemporary. It was no coincidence that right after I had that thought, I came across “Champion Sound” which was sadly Jaylib’s lone collaborative project. It is a technical marvel in terms of sound and is rightfully considered an underground classic.

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Slum Village-Fan-Tas-Tic Vol.1

Slum Village was another important pickup for me while I was “digging” so to speak. “Fan-tas-tic Vol. 1” was the one that I gravitated toward, falling in love with the minimalist approach to crafting songs. “Welcome To Detroit” was yet another album that I have a ton of respect for. For me it sounded like more of what I was accustomed to in terms of the Slum sound and was a great addition to an already stellar catalog.  While listening to Slum Village, I was introduced to Elzhi and Black Milk.

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Khrysis and Elzhi are “Jericho Jackscon”

Even though most of Elzhi’s work was on subsequent Slum Village albums after Jay Dee’s departure from the group, there was still a bevy of material to sift through with Elzhi tearing apart Dilla Beats.  “Villa Manifesto” was the last time all four members of Slum Village were featured on a single project…Rest In Peace Baatin.  Even with the album pictured above that was released on February 23rd, 2018 the legacy lives on with Elzhi sounding as sharp as ever while Khrysis crafts beats that are reminiscent of  Dilla’s early work.

 

 

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Karriem Riggins- Headnod Suite

When “Headnod Suite” dropped on February 24th 2017, I declared then that if  J Dilla were alive today and dropped “Donuts 2”, It would sound exactly like this. From the chopped up loops, to abrupt breaks or “perfect mistakes” as I call them, It is abundantly clear that Mr. Riggins  has studied the techniques very closely and has arguably perfected the sound altogether. It’s also no coincidence that Karriem Riggins was entrusted with completing “The Shining” which was unfortunately only 75% completed at the time of Dilla’s passing.

 

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Black Milk-Fever

As mentioned earlier, while listening to Slum Village I discovered Black Milk while reading through the liner notes. Determined not to make the same mistake I did with J Dilla, I immediately bought “Popular Demand” and was blown away.  Any album that he has dropped since Dilla has passed has felt like he picked up the mantle of pushing boundaries musically. Every album sounds and feels different sonically.  The “Fever” album also dropped on February 23rd, 2018 and I implore all of you to go give this album a spin, you will not be disappointed.

 

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In ending, The words above summarizes my senitments on J Dilla entirely, to quote Black Thought’s heart-felt and soul stirring voicemail from the song “Can’t Stop This” he states:

“My man, JD, was a true hip hop artist
… I can’t explain the influence that
His mind and ear have had on my band
Myself and the careers of so many other
Artists.
 The most humble, modest, worthy

And gifted beatmaker I’ve known. And
Definitely the best producer on the mic
Never without that signature smile and head
Bouncin’ to the beat.
 JD had a passion for

Life and music, and will never be forgotten
He’s a brother that was loved by me, and I
Love what he’s done for us. And though I’m
Happy he’s no longer in the pain he’d been
Recently feelin’, I’m crushed by the pain of
His absence.
 Name’s Dilla Dog and I can only
Rep the real and raw.
 My man, Dilla, rest in

Peace.”

As I sit here 12 years after J Dilla’s passing, I can’t help but wonder where he would have taken music had he still been with us. What new technique would he have invented that would have changed the landscape entirely. J Dilla did indeed change my life, he changed the way I heard and understood music. He made me study music theory just so I could have a better appreciation of 3 second sample from an obscure record placed at an unconventional section that would normally destroy the structure of a song. A practice that if done by anybody else during that time, I’m not sure that it would have been executed with such precision. James Dewitt Yancey was born on February 7th 1974.  He was truly a one of one the likes of which we will most likely never see again…Maybe in our next lifetime.

The RapNerd’s Lament…

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“A Sad Man” by Javi Velazquez

 

As a life long fan of Hip-Hop, I find myself at a point where I’m extremely conflicted. Although my love for the art form has not wavered, I have begun to question much of the content and intent that has pervaded the mass consciousness of general music listeners. The more I listen, the more I absorb, the more I begin to realize a harsh truth. A truth that many will often defend to the point of being obnoxious, ignorant, selfish or just flat-out wrong. The truth is that we as a Hip-Hop Community hates women, Women in general but Black Women specifically.

On The Diplomats song “Once Upon A Time” Cam’Ron rapped:

“Welcome back to the hallway loiterers
I made mills off the white girl, I exploited her
No disrespecting the ladies, word from my team (why)
That’s the reason Dame smacked Harvey Weinstein.”

By now we should all know about the monster that is Harvey Weinstein and he deserves every punishment that can be given to him. While what Cam rapped about was something commendable on Dame’s behalf, I couldn’t help but think about all the times I went crazy every time “Wet Wipes” or  “Suck It Or Not” was played back in 2007. In 2018 I looked back on those songs began to cringe profusely.  I began to wonder how many men in their early 20’s 10 years ago feel the same way now as I do. As the conversation shifts ever so violently toward women’s rights. I found myself pondering what role if any does Hip-Hop play in the sphere of Misogynoir.

For those of you that don’t know, Misogynoir is defined as; misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. To break that down further, Misogyny is defined as; the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls.  Now when you take those definitions and apply them to the current landscape of Mainstream Hip-Hop (the most listened to genre of music in the world at the present day) There is a very serious issue that stands before us. How many times have we as fans been complicit in the systemic tearing down of black women?

Through the music we have allowed ourselves to fall victim to the politics of respectability. The medium of music videos has done more to marginalize black women. Entire social media and terrestrial media platforms have been created to further drive home that point. So much so, that we as consumers believe that any woman who is apart of these platforms is of low moral standing. We as a community has allowed this to happen.

Another branch of the misogynior tree is rape culture. To make it plain and simple, anytime a woman is forced, or coerced into sex without her consent is rape period. In a world where words or phrases like “thot”, “scrapes”, “stabs”, and “hoes” have become normal jargon, it can blind you to the fact that women, Black women are the targets of these words more times than not. When Rick Ross rapped:

“Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it
Got a hundred acres I live on, you ain’t even know it
Got a hundred rounds in this AR, you ain’t even know it
Got a bag of bitches I play with, on cloud 9 in my spaceship”

he knowingly shared his tactics with us on how he beds women,and all we did was nod along and ran the song back.

There are varying degrees to which we as black men have been complicit with notions and concepts that are less than becoming or savory. Degrees that none of us are exempt from. As I sit here and continue to ponder, I ask myself, where did much is this originate from? On Kid Cudi’s song , “Make Her Say(Poke Her Face)” A song literally about receiving oral pleasure, Conscious Stalwart Common once implored women to “get their hair right and get up on this conscious dick”.  In that verse he answers a poignant question, while “Embodying everything from the Godly to the party” when he finally spit, “that’s the way I was raised in this Southside safari so….” That led me to believe that this has been passed down through generations as misogynoir normally is.

In ending, as I continue this mental exercise, I’m finding myself more confused than when I began. Where is the balance? How do I continue down this path of musical freedom while also being aware that Black Women continue to be marginalized? It’s literally coming from all sides. How do we raise this generation of young girls and boys? when is it the right time to expose them to the art form? While it is beautiful at its core, there is a bunch of muck that surrounds it. Muck that is profitable, Muck that is vibrationally frequent , Muck that is universal.