Your favorite producer’s favorite producer: the late, great James Dewitt Yancey, famously known as J Dilla, will be releasing his seventh studio album, and his fifth since passing away in 2006 from a rare blood disease.
His mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey has pieced together 19 previously unheard instrumentals by the iconic producer, and the project is scheduled to be release April 21st. The album will be appropriately titled Motor City, after his hometown, and will serve as a tribute to Detroit, as well a “letter” from Maureen to her son. The CD and vinyl copies will be packaged in limited-edition mailing envelopes, featuring a handwritten letter from Ma Dukes to Dilla inside.
The D-Town native held down most of the mid to late 90’s, producing for groups such as: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, and The Roots. He also worked with solo artists such as Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Common, and Erykah Badu.
Today, you can still feel Dilla’s presence in the music industry: artists such as Joey Bada$$, Drake, and Chance, the Rapper have sampled Dilla. Chance’s “Everybody’s Something,” off of his breakout 2013 mixtape, Acid Rap, samples Dilla’s high school group Slum Village’s “Fall in Love.” Badass was lucky enough to score an unreleased Dilla beat, along with instrumentation from The Roots, for his song “Like Me,” from his 2015 album, B4.DA.$$.
A year after Dilla passed away, in 2007, Drake sampled “Time: The Donut of the Heart” on his mixtape Comeback Season, which was the 10th song off Dilla’s third studio album, Donuts, released on his 32nd birthday, three days before his death. What would go on to be his final album released living, Donuts is ranked as Pitchforks 66th best album on their “Top 200 Albums of the 2000’s” list. Metacritic gave the album 84/100, receiving “universal acclaim” from its critics. BBC’s 2011 review of the album claimed it to “likely remain timeless,” while adding “something that can’t be doubted is that Dilla had a unique Midas touch which has reached well beyond his own, tragically short lifetime.”
The self-taught producer would have turned 43 in February this year, and while he won’t be around for Motor City’s April 21st release, his spirit will be felt, there’s no doubt about that.At that time, his sound was considered fresh and groundbreaking, doing things that we now see all producers doing today. Madlib, who worked with Dilla on their 2003 duo album Champion Sound, once said in an interview that Dilla “never quantized” his drums, a process which makes the sound less organic for the swing of the beat; Dilla gave himself more creative freedom at the cost of difficulty. It’s part of what made him so special, his productions were so complex and hand-crafted that you had to respect what he was doing.