J Dilla is a legend. More than a legend, even. Dilla's amazing body of work represents the best in creativity, inspiration and artistry. He's the kind of producer that every producer reveres and every fan can't get enough of. From his work with established acts like The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest, to his greatness with Slum Village, to his instrumental genius and countless classics with the likes of Common, Erykah Badu, etc., the man born James Yancey has one of Hip-Hop's most storied legacies. Years after his death, he's still the gold standard.
We picked five tracks to just give you an inkling of the dopeness of Jay Dee.
"Runnin'" - The Pharcyde
Still one of Dilla's most inventive beats. Back when he was Jay Dee, the Detroit native was recommended by Q-Tip to help produce The Pharcyde's sophomore album. Even though the group was splintering, Dilla helped elevate Labcabincalifornia.
"Stakes Is High" - De La Soul
In 1996, De La Soul fired their longtime producer Prince Paul in an effort to move away from their earlier, "zanier" approach. In comes J Dilla, giving Pos, Dave and Maseo one of their most acclaimed singles and introducing the world to a more topical, serious brand of De La.
"1nce Again" - A Tribe Called Quest
All hail The Ummah! When Dilla, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad came together as a production collective, the result signaled a stylistic departure for ATCQ, but helped announce Dilla as a force.
"Raise It Up" - Slum Village
SV was deeply uncomfortable with being tagged as "the next Tribe" in the early 2000s, but it's understandable why some fans saw them as such. In Baatin, T3 and Dilla, you had relatable emcees with an earthy sound. Fantastic Vol. 2 remains one of the best rap albums ever made.
"Didn't Cha Know" - Erykah Badu
Badu and Dilla made magic together on this ethereal single. Proof positive that Dilla was a producer capable of almost sonic approach, aesthetic or vibe. Pure greatness.