Six years ago today, the music industry suffered an incredible loss. After a long battle with a rare blood disease known as TTP, producer James Yancey, a.k.a. J Dilla, passed away on February 10, 2006. It is impossible to ignore the impact he has had on the world of Hip-Hop, and on this very sad occasion, I feel it is right to not only honor his memory, but to celebrate his life and legacy as well.
Born and raised in Detroit, Dilla was a founding member of Slum Village, quickly putting his musical talents to use, his ingenuity and eclectic style spring boarding the group to fame. Word of his skills passed quickly throughout the Hip-Hop community, and in the span of a decade solidified his reputation as an in-demand talent.
As a producer, he helped craft sounds for countless artists, boasting a number of collaborators so large it is a daunting task to list them all. Even a casual fan of Hip-Hop has been affected by his genius, whether they know it or not. Working alongside luminaries like Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Raekwon, Erykah Badu, and the Roots, his skills as an artist have become renowned in the years following his death, his name synonymous with perfection and incomparable ability, consistently ranked as one of the greatest Hip-Hop producers of all time.
A tireless visionary, J Dilla continued to work even after falling ill, and though in his last years he faded further from the spotlight, he never stopped producing quality work. His final studio album, Donuts, was released just three days before he passed away, while another album, The Shining, was still being completed. Clearly, the amount of songs he amassed within such a short life is further testament to his greatness, and it pains me even more as I ponder the wealth of material that was surely to come.
To continue his legacy, the J Dilla Foundation was established by his mother, Maureen Yancey. A non-profit organization, the J Dilla Foundation works to help fund music education programs in inner city areas, helping children foster an appreciation of the arts as well as a better understanding of the arts. The Foundation also offers scholarships to children attending schools with progressive musical curriculums. The foundation is working to insure that musical education survives, especially in communities where funding is few and far between. Please visit and donate at www.jdillafoundation.org. In today’s economy, with arts budgets being slashed across the board, your support is needed more than ever to help children realize their full potential.
While we sit back and reflect on the loss of a Hip-Hop legend, let us keep in mind that the music he made will last forever. Though he is no longer with us, J Dilla’s voice and influence remain. His passion ignited a flame that, even six years after he’s gone, shows no signs of going out. If you have one of his records, play it today. If not, go out and buy one. Tell a friend. Burn a copy and pass it around. Today may be a somber one, but it can be joyous as well. We shouldn’t wallow in sadness, dwelling on all that could have been. We should instead celebrate what he has left behind. No doubt, this sentiment will be just one of many in an avalanche of support and love, and deservedly so.
So if you’re wondering how to honor the memory of a legend, it’s simple.Just put on a pair of headphones, and turn it up.
For more information about the J Dilla Foundation, visit jdillafoundation.org or call (313) 355-8488.
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