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J Dilla/Jay Dee


J Dilla/Jay Dee

© Stones Throw Records

Born: James Yancey

Date of Birth: February 7, 1974 in Detroit, MI.

DiedFebruary 10, 2006


Trivia Facts:

  • The first record Jay Dee ever bought was "Open Sesame" by Kool & the Gang.
  • Prior to Slum Village, Jay Dee (aka J Dilla) and Proof (of D12) formed a rap group known as Funky Cowboy.

Jay Dee In His Own Words:

"Sometimes, fixation can be a good thing and sometimes it can be bad. There&'d be days when I wouldn't eat at all, because I'd be in the basement working all day." (URB interview, March 2004).


Father's Influence:

As a child, J Dilla's father pointed him to the direction of music. Even though he wanted to hang out with friends, music was priority around the house. He participated in marching bands and learned to play various instruments. The early start gave Dilla an opportunity to hone his skills and perfect his art over time.


Dilla's Legacy:

A revolutionary sound architect, J Dilla's production clientèle included De La Soul, Talib Kweli, The Pharcyde, Common, D'Angelo, and his own group Slum Village. J Dilla was also part of A Tribe Called Quest's production crew known as The Ummah, alongside Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed. Together, The Ummah produced Tribe's The Love Movement LP.


Slum Village:

Dilla co-founded Slum Village along with high school friends Baatin and T-3 in the early 90s. Their first full-length project was the critically acclaimed Fantastic Vol. 1. They followed it up with Fantastic vol. 2, The Trinity, and Detroit Deli. Jay Dee handled majority of the production, occasionally featuring as an MC. However, the producer/rapper played a limited role in Detroit Deli, and was absent for the group's most recent self-titled entry Slum Village.


Life After Slum Village:

Dilla had been involved in some external work while still churning hits for the Village. In 2003, he joined forces with like-minded producer/rapper Madlib. The duo released Champion Sound under the moniker JayLib. One half of the album features Madlib rhyming over Dilla's production & the other half is vice versa. Jay Dee later followed it up with his own solo project Welcome 2 Detroit.


A Stone Throw Away From Fame:

Dilla was the main artist on BBE Records. He inspired the label's Beat Generation series. He was later signed by Stones Throw where he recorded Champion Sound with Madlib, and completed work on Donuts and The Shining.

Although, Pharrell Williams (of The Neptunes) declared Dilla his favorite producer in a 2003 BET interview, Jay Dee never achieved commercial success. He was largely respected and widely cherished in underground circuits.


Health Problems:

Dilla suffered for over three years with an incurable blood disease and was also diagnosed with lupus – an autoimmune disease. Undeterred by his health problems, Dilla continued to produce and perform, even touring Europe in a wheelchair in 2005. He produced 90% of Push Comes To Shove for labelmate MED and contributed to Common’s career-reviving BE album. Dilla's instrumental set--titled Donuts because of his love for donuts--was released on his 32nd birthday (February 7, 2006). Three days later, J. Dilla died of complications from lupus. May his soul rest in peace.


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