So on an expedition with the Bahene (Coffee Bean & Lady Godiva), I found myself a tad bored in an Ann Taylor. To make matters worse, the music that was supposedly there to provide a more comfortable shopping experience was in fact mildly grating on my psyche. What is a troubled boy to do? If you replied, "Dig in his pocket and fish out his 80 gig iPod," then you would be correct.
The next step was deciding what to play. It would have been easy to go to one of my already preset shuffled playlists with songs that would more or less satiate me. But at that moment I decided to not waste the potential of the device and actually listen to some of the buried treasures I had loaded on to the darn thing in the hopes that I could jumpstart myself into discovering and rediscovering the bounty that is on my computer. I didn't want anything too unfamiliar though since I still had the sisters asking me for my opinion from time to time. That's when I scrolled down to J Dilla.
J Dilla has to be my favorite producer of all time. That's one of those few statements I can make that I can unequivocally stand behind. He is the linchpin behind all the music that I hold the most dearly. He started with A Tribe Called Quest and his discography is extensive. He is one of the few fan T-shirts that I have bought voluntarily. Sadly he passed away around this time last year due to some rare blood disease. But amazingly he has dropped about two albums posthumously with another on the way this year.
But my playlist is pretty large (314) since he did so much music. So this is another one of those playlists that will have multiple entries. So all I did was hit shuffle and then....
In the middle of a midtown Ann Taylor, I was riding the train on my way to high school. Dilla's production was that of a jazz bassist who fell in love with hip-hop. If Dilla was born earlier, I can easily see him working with Miles Davis. Once again bass is a huge element of his production, but the snares are crisp too. And later on in his production he definitely experimented with a more spacey, galactical sound. But overall, 9 out of 10 Dilla songs, on instrumentals alone, make your sould move.
The one thing you can say about his productions is that often the level of performer is not up to the par of the beat. Dilla hailed from Detroit and seemingly had many friends taht also shared his love of rap, but sadly did not possess the adequate skills. Dill astill put them on, maybe because his emceeing skills weren't that significant either. Most of the productions are are wth artists who never had a shot at a record deal. Often they sound like raps that people came up with bullshitting in an apartment late at night, often with the help of THC. They're misogynistic and empty more often than not. But Dilla's production is so strong that you listen to the song anyway.
It's so sad that he didn't get the recognition that he deserved while alive. Upon his death, you would have thought that he had oodles of Grammys in his collection. I mean he even had an obituary in the New York Times. But his production for the few big name artists he worked with never really were popular hits. His most recognizable hits have been Q-Tip's "Vivrant Thing" and Common's "The Light", both artists who have perpetually made residence at the periphery of the mainstream. Sad though. My life was changed by him. How many more he could have touched we will never know.
Tracks to Check: Copywrite - Clap, Four Tet - As Serious As Your Life (Jay Dee Remix), Royce Tha 5'9" - Life Goes On, ASD - Wenn Ihr Fuhit (Yes German rap. This cat got around)
Please don't check: Anything by 5 Elementz....uggggh.