Black Artist Spotlight: J Dilla

J Dilla A.K.A Jay Dee was a huge influence to Hip-Hop and R&B. He produced songs for artists such as; Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Common, and more.

Dilla formed Slum Village with his high school classmates, T3 and Baatin. Following the release of their debut, Fantastic Vol. 1, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest took notice to Dilla’s potential specifically.
With the help of Q-Tip, Dilla was producing for Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde.

During this time Jay Dee, Questlove, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, Bilal, Mos Def, James Poyser, Q-Tip, and Talib Kweli formed a Hip-Hop and R&B collective by the name of  Soulquarians.

Soulquarians; from left to right; Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, James Poyser, Erykah Badu, Questlove, D’Angelo, Q-Tip, Bilal, and J Dilla

In 2000, Dilla left Slum Village as a rap artist due to his career as a producer expanding, he was a member by name only, still continuing to produce for the group.

Also in 2000, produced for Common’s Like Water ForChocolate and Badu’s, Mama’s Gun. From producing these albums came two Grammy nominations; Common’s, “The Light” and Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know”.

2001 came his solo career, with the single “F*ck the Police” and the album, Welcome 2 Detroit. This is when Jay Dee started using the name J Dilla, to separate himself from Jermaine Dupri (JD).

After J Dilla’s death in 2006, many of his unfinished music he planned to release, were released.
Among this music included The Shining. One of my favorite Hip-Hop songs, “So Far to Go” featuring Common and D’Angelo is a track on that album. Three days before his death the album, Donuts was released.

While Dilla was sick, he was living in L.A. with Common. I read of J Dilla for the first time in Common’s memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense.

Unfinished music by J Dilla is still being finished and released.

Originally published 2/26/15.

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