If you even so much as call yourself a hip-hop fan, then you are surely aware of J Dilla, one of the most influential hip-hop producers of all time. His work with underground artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, The Pharcyde and many others, as well as his instrumental mixtapes, allowed him to establish a legacy for himself as one of the most innovative producers in hip-hop. With an incredible musical knowledge and knack for sampling some of the most obcsure tracks, J Dilla became influential to producers and musicians from every genre. Because his beats had so much power in their simplicity, he became one of the first producers to really showcase the power of the hip-hop instrumental, creating beautiful atmospheres that had no need for lyrics. Unfortunately, J Dilla passed away in 2006 after battling a rare blood disease, but his legacy lives on through the incredible music that has come of his influencial career. Today, February 7, was his birthday and is know around the music world as Dilla Day. Below are five artists that have certainly found major influence in the work of the great J Dilla.
The first is DJ/producer Madlib, close friend and collaborator of Dilla himself. He has released a steady stream of incredible rap and instrumental albums under various pseudonyms over the past 20 years, and here is one of his finest.
Flying Lotus is an experimental electronic producer out of Los Angeles, who has released an impressive amount of beautifully trippy ambient beat music that challenges the conventions of modern day hip hop instrumentals. His work spans a wide variety of genres, but it is clear that J Dilla’s work had a huge impact on the young man.
The next artist, Nujabes, was considered the J Dilla of Japan. Coincedently also born on February 7, and passing away in 2010, he created heavily piano-sampled tracks that added a completely unique spin to hip hop instrumentals. Nujabes released a number of albums over his career and worked with many rappers, but some of his best work was in the instrumentals.
To emphasize the expanse of J Dilla’s influence, here a more current artist out of Australia known as Ta-Ku. His music is primarily in trap and downtempo electronic but he recently released a J Dilla tribute mixtape of 50 beats inspired by the legend. The full mix can be listened to here, and it is so on-point that I had to include one of my favourite tracks from it.
And finally, the master himself. Choosing one single J Dilla track presented itself as a challenge, but I decided on this particular one because it was off his final album, which was released only three days before his death. Dilla composed his final work Donuts while hospitalized with a rare blood condition. Despite being very weak, he demanded to have his laptop and production tools brought to his bedside so he could complete his final album. It is truly a masterpiece and the song and video below, Last Night Donut of the Night, is one of my all time favourite J Dilla beats. I just can’t listen to it without getting chills down my spine. RIP J Dilla