J Dilla saved my life

“One of my favourite producer passed away today…Jay Dee. Dilla.”

Those were Kid’s words 11 years ago. Moments later I was introduced to the back story the of someone, who I ,unknowingly, had been listening to for years through the beats he left along the way.

Dilla. Founding member of Slum Village, producer to A Tribe Called Quest, Janet Jackson and The Pharcyde, one part of the Ummah production team with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a Hip Hop artist, who truly continues to get recognized beyond his passing. A son, a brother, a friend, a musical inspiration, who embodied the state of “being honest”. Says Ma Dukes – Maureen Yancey:

 “My children grew to detest liars,” says Maureen. “So this is how it was with Dilla. If you promised him something, he expected it. If he was going to be honest with you, he expected the same thing.”

Dilla was born on February 7th. He passed away on February 10th at the tender age of 32. In the prime of his life, struck by a cruel disease. Yet, he still lives on.

Every year the industry and those, who loved him, celebrate his legacy by reminding the world of the unique Dilla sound that swept the airwaves decades back. His style was by no means conventional, but rather “heavy on beats and percussion, and more often than not, slightly off-beat”. Some called him “a wizard” – masterfully twisting and manipulating sounds to create beautifully bizarre musical experiences. And, he did. 

So I sit here and listen; flipping’ through the vinyls, bathing in the sounds.

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There are hundreds of beats we could play, but one comes to mind: this week, as we celebrate his incredible legacy, let’s do it through “Life”.

“Life” has always spoken to me. It’s “beautifully bizarre”, it urges you to think, it rolls out the imaginary Red Carpet of Life, a path available for exploration. It’s honest. It’s true.


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