I am not a hardcore hip-hop head, in that, I don’t have the most extensive knowledge of hip-hop history. But I have an unending appreciation for it as my hip-hop journey — for the old and new — unfolds.
To be honest, I only learned who Dilla was a few months before his death. It was Christmas of 2005 and I was still in college. For some reason, I was not in the mood to listen to any festive, cheery holiday music that entire month. I was on the way home from boxing, adrenaline still pumping, and my iPod — God bless the shuffle function — suddenly played Don’t Nobody Care by Phat Kat. I hadn’t heard it in what seemed like forever.
I could not get over the beat. With it on-loop in my mind, I went online and searched for the song and there I saw the line “Produced by J Dilla“. I checked out his discography, and lo and behold, this man was The MAN.
He produced hip-hop tracks and albums that I had never heard of and tracks that you and I both know and love. The Pharcyde, 90’s De La Soul, he co-founded Slum Village, Common‘s Like Water For Chocolate album, worked with The Roots for Things Fall Apart, singles from A Tribe Called Quest, Phat Kat, (the late) Heavy D, and (surprisingly!) my all-time favorite track from Janet Jackson Got ‘Til It’s Gone featuring Q-Tip. The MAN, right? RIGHT?
So this little write up is my simple ode. If you love hip-hop, you owe it to yourself to discover more about this man and his music. When you find yourself strained after listening to a lot of today’s mainstream noise, you can always come back to Dilla. You’ll thank yourself for pressing play.