Questlove is making a J Dilla doc

The Roots drummer-turned-documentarian is teaming up again with ‘Summer of Soul’ producer Joseph Patel for a new project about the influential Detroit beatmaker

click to enlarge Questlove. - Shutterstock

The story of the late, influential Detroit hip-hop producer J Dilla is getting the documentary treatment, and some big names have signed on to the project.

The Hollywood Reporter reported Thursday that Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who earned an Oscar for his 2021 documentary Summer of Soul, is leading the project, called Dilla Time.

The forthcoming doc is based on the 2021 biography by author Dan Charnas, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm. Questlove will once again partner with Summer of Soul producer Joseph Patel, who will produce and co-direct with Darby Wheeler in partnership with Scenario Media.

The project, which has been granted the blessing of Dilla’s estate, is described as “part biography, part musicology, and part musical meditation, featuring insight from some of the most influential and innovative voices of modern music.”

Dilla, whose career was cut short when he died in 2006 of a rare blood disease at the age of 32, had worked with acts like Slum Village, the Pharcyde, Erykah Badu, Common, and other big names in hip-hop through his work in the collective the Soulquarians.

“We trust the judgment of Ahmir, Joseph, Dan, and Scenario to elevate Dilla’s life, music, and legacy to their rightful place in the canon of music’s great innovators; and their film is the only documentary project we have endorsed,” the estate said in a statement.

In a statement, Questlove said it was an honor to be a part of the project.

“Explaining musical genius is my mission. To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true,” he said. “Not just on me, but on an entire generation of musicians that everyone knows and loves. J Dilla was our teacher. And what he taught us was how to feel rhythm in a way we had never felt before. I’m so honored to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary.”

Last year, Metro Times published a Dilla Time excerpt about how Dilla and T3 of Slum Village landed a record deal thanks to NBA player John Salley and producer R.J. Rice.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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