Music

the power of j. dilla’s production

February 7, 2019
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J. Dilla’s production made my world tender. I remember hearing Donuts for the first time and my ears and heart opening up to what was blossoming inside of me — the production was complicated but still vulnerable. Not complicated in a way that technology and computer coding is complicated, but intricate like what is needed to create a handmade quilt. This is what J. Dilla gave me: something to be comfortable and complicated inside of that will embrace you. The power of Dilla’s production gave such complicated warmth to everyone every track his production graced.

But it was D’angelo cooing on “So Far To Go,” that still gives me the warm, fuzzy feeling. Only rivaled by Erykah Badu’s “Telephone” that appeared on her New Amerykah: The World War, not Dilla’s Donuts, that gives me a similar feeling. It’s a haunting immaterial thing that’s hard to articulate, but when you listen to the last sounds of the legend you know something special and intimate is happening. Maybe, the feeling of someone now dead pouring their last ounce of life into something is the feeling I’m naming.

On Dilla Day, but everyday, Dilla’s influence on hip-hop is felt — perhaps even haunted by — his fantastic care. His incredible warmth. His absolute embrace of (even obsession with once we consider the sheer quantity of production he has given us) of the intricate and soulful. There are producers I love doing similar work, albeit in their own way, like No I.D., Salaam Remi, and DJ Premier and this brings me delight and some calm that the musical soundscape Dilla helped build is still being expanded. Every February 7th, I miss J. Dilla and have complicated, warm thoughts about how riveting Dilla’s music would be if he was still here to haunt us.

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