Tackling Dilla


Writing a J Dilla post is not exactly a task that can be undertaken lightly. It’s hard taking a unique approach writing about a subject who so much has been said about, and the motivation here isn’t to add to the legend, but to showcase the music. While Dilla’s beats are obviously most often associated with hip hop, an important facet of the listening experience is to disassociate his beats from a genre, and allow them to stand on their own. The idea that his beats are made for hip hop would insinuate that Donuts is missing vocals inherently, when that is not at all the case, and that’s the magic behind Dilla, that he was able to produce such consistent standalone beats that neither needed nor would benefit from the addition of vocals.

I’ve been wrestling with the idea that J Dilla’s untimely passing is intrinsically linked to the listening experience merely because I knew he had died before I first heard the music. Because of this I will forever make the association between his music and his death, while Dilla’s associations and motivations behind the music he made were likely all together different. Would my listening experience be drastically changed if Dilla were alive today? I can’t think of a more heartbreaking catch 22, that it took Dilla’s death for fans like me to be exposed to his music, and if he were still here, I’d never be able to make these deep emotional connections that are such a big part of the listening experience.

It’s hard to leave this post somewhere. I can’t think of another artist that elicits gut wrenching thoughts of both amazement and unexplainable guilt. But maybe you are lucky enough to be able to listen to music and not have a million thoughts race through your head related to it(artist personality/life, marketing strategies, recording techniques, record label info, the studio experience, does or does not this artist smoke weed, is this song as good/bad as I’ve convinced myself). This usually leads me to having to listen to any song 5-10 times before I really start to soak it in, which is not necessarily such a bad thing, as in J Dilla’s case.

MP3: “Waves” – J Dilla

MP3: “Lightworks” – J Dilla

MP3: “Workinonit” – J Dilla

MP3: “Won’t Do” – J Dilla


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