Why J Dilla is Hip-Hop's Johann Sebastian Bach
All month long, hip-hop heads and music fans across the globe have celebrated the legacy of Detroit born J Dilla
, who passed a decade ago February 2, 2006. With every timeless narrative that Q-Tip, Black Thought, Questlove, Royce, and Elzhi (to name a few) share; the more his mystique thickens. His style and catalog continues to be dissected for all his genius samples, meticulous musical arrangements, and influences on hip-hop, pop, neo-soul and music as a whole. While his peers appreciated this when he was still walking the earth; many others are just now grasping his greatness. To be blunt, the cat completely altered the creative mindset of making music but the casual American/Detroit hip-hop fan was sleeping on him.
Phat Kat summed it up best to MT
in 2006 shortly after Dilla's passing. “He could sell out a stadium in Europe, but in Detroit nobody knew who he was. And now people want to be all on his jock and show him respect, but they should have done it when he was still alive. Folks from out of town don't even believe that Jay Dee's hometown hardly played him on the radio — even after 15 years of putting out good music!”
It many ways its mind-blowing because the mid '90s through the 2000s are considered “The Age of the Producer.” It 's when Puffy, Timbaland, Kayne, Neptunes, Swizz Beats, Just Blaze, DJ Premiere, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, the RZA, etc. became more popular than some of the artists they produced. It could be Dilla was never one to yell his name all over the track and it never felt like he was artificially seeking the lime light. Dude just made dope beats over, and over, and over again. Black Thought recently told Ambrosia For Heads about spending the night at his mom's house at the end of every year just to he could get first dibs on Dilla's instrumental goodie bag.
This makes J Dilla the Johann Sebastian Bach of hip-hop. That might be an extreme comparison, but Bach died in 1750 with not many composer credits to his name. He was talented, known as a soloist, popular to his peers. But it took another 75 years and a reevaluation of his work for him to be ranked one of the all time classical composers that had ever lived. This is uncharted waters for hip-hop. Big L and Pimp C are considered super talented lyricists who died before their times, but they don't make too many top 10 emcee list. Biggie, Eazy E, and Pac were already legends before they died. Dilla's legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Its as if an entire generation of hip-hop heads had the proverbial “Ohhhhh, I get it now” moment. Whoever coined the quote “J Dilla is your favorite producer's favorite producer” said it best.
On Friday, Feb. 12, Jay Electronica, Illa J, Amp Fiddler, Nolan the Ninja, DJ Butter, and more perform at Bert's on Broadway; Doors at 8 p.m.; 1315 Broadway St., Detroit; dillatroit.com; General admission is $20, VIP is $50.