Jim Carroll

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Dilla’s thrillas are his lasting legacy

It’s six years to the day that the producer born James Yancey and known to us as J Dilla died at the age of 32 from a rare blood disease. During his lifetime, he was one of the most prolific …

Fri, Feb 10, 2012, 10:12

   

It’s six years to the day that the producer born James Yancey and known to us as J Dilla died at the age of 32 from a rare blood disease. During his lifetime, he was one of the most prolific maestros in the beats business, but it’s how his blueprints have gone on to inform the handiwork of countless other acts and producers which is Dilla’s real legacy.

From The xx to Flying Lotus to every wide-eyed maverick producer aiming to record the buckwild sounds they hear in their heads, Dilla’s soundscapes have cast a wide net. There are times when you’re check out the work of the new school that it feels like Dilla never went away.

As with any act who dies in their prime, you can speculate until the cows come home about what might have been. Dilla worked with renowned hip-hop and soul acts like Erykah Badu, Common, The Roots, Q-Tip, the Pharcyde, Ghostface Killah and dozens more, but imagine what would have happened if he had been paired with a pop act.

Could Dilla’s mix and match of electronic noises, eerie samples and warm, evocative instrumental snatches have worked in tandem with a pop voice and tune? Listening back to his work on Q-Tip’s “Amplified” album during the week, there’s no doubt that he has the skills and smarts to make such a big splash.

The first stop for anyone who wants to know more about Dilla is probably “Donuts”, the album he recorded on a portable sound system on his death-bed in hospital when he knew that time was running out. It’s the performance of a real master at work, sculpting eerie, leftfield swirls and stabs which are as deep in soul as they are wide in funk. Remember him this way.

Some Dilla tributes for yo’ ears: Dazboy’s recent Underground Elements show on the producer on RTE Pulse, a brilliant Dilla tribute on Hot 97 from ?uestlove, SertOne’s Quesadillas EP, clip from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s “Timeless: Suite For Ma Dukes” session for Mochilla, DIlla’s 10 greatest remixes and Dilla’s top 10 beats. And finally, the Far Side Of Dilla from the radio show the other night is now playing here