Neither of these cats need too much of an introduction. J Rocc of Beat Junkies fame spins some of Dilla’s greatest instrumentals: if you don’t have this then it should be clear that you need it. Shouts again to Sconeboy for this one: live it large in Toronto mate!
Due to Dilla’s tragic passing last year, there has of course been a massive amount written about him all over the internet. For this reason I am not going to go into any detail at all about the man himself. Instead, I want to focus on his music and the effect that it has had on me as a fan of the genre. I have to admit that I would not list Dilla as one of my favourite producers of all time, and in fact at stages I have felt lukewarm about his production. This is offset with a handful of songs that I deem to be amongst the greatest that hip hop has ever known.
My first official introduction to Dilla came with ‘Fantastic Vol. 2’ which I had heard so much hype about that I thought it was going to change my world. It didn’t. Apart from a few of the cuts I really didn’t connect with the album, and found the production lacking in substance and the rhymes irritating. I never really understood why this album got the credit that it did. I put this down to a simple case of personal preference as I can understand the musicianship behind the album and the way that it offered something different to a more mainstream hip hop audience, but I just wouldn’t listen to it very often and certainly not for its whole duration. I was also disappointed in the BBE release ‘Welcome To Detroit’ which again lacked punch for me and is another Dilla work that I could pass up quite easily.
However, his contributions to both the second Pharcyde release as well as Common’s ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ were sensational. I would have to class ‘Runnin” as one of my favourite hip hop cuts of all time and love ‘Labcabincalifornia’ despite an awareness that others do not feel as strongly. I copped ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ during the Rawkus golden era when artists like Mos Def and Kweli were at the forefront of the scene and loved it from the word go. Dilla’s contribution here was soulful, jazzy and undeniably cool. His work on the boards matched Common’s dope yet thoughtful style and made for a truly great record.
Of course in more recent times both ‘The Shining’ and ‘Donuts’ have demonstrated what an original thinker and valuable contributor Dilla was to the hip hop scene. I remember holidaying in the south of France when I got ‘Donuts’ and I could not put it down. I love the fact that Dilla used to tap out the beats for the whole tune without relying on the MPC to correct his mistakes, and this live and slightly abstract feel translates into a bangin’ release. Some of the cuts on ‘The Shining’ are also excellent and the album as a whole is testament to the talent that has been sadly lost. Of course, there are loads of quality Dilla releases dotted all over the place both under his own name and in collaboration with other artists, but you know that don’t you?
Back to the mix. J Rocc doesn’t mess about here, creating a smooth blend where each beat gradually develops into the next with nothing in the way of turntable trickery to spoil the mood. This is a late night head nodder that brings together a whole host of instrumental joints with style and grace. Kick back, relax and pay your respects to a man that may not have revolutionised the state of hip hop in the future, but who was certainly in the process of resuscitating an artform that is struggling to stay alive.