Last night (Feb. 6th), the James Dewitt Yancey Foundation in association with Distrokid, Official Ma Dukes, Delicious Vinyl Records, Fusicology and BBE Records produced the first annual digital James “J Dilla” Yancey, Dilla Fest. Hosted by close friend and frequent J Dilla music collaborator, rapper Frank Nitti (of hip-hop duo Frank-N-Dank), the fest was put together in honor of Dilla’s 47th birthday and 20th anniversary of his crictically acclaimed solo album, Welcome 2 Detroit.
What we usually experience yearly for Dilla during this week, which encases his birthday date (Feb. 7th, 1974) and his passing date (Feb. 10th, 2006), is national “Dilla Days” where promoters pack night clubs and venues with DJs and mega fans of the bounce master’s music to enjoy. But with these Covid-19 times, like everything else, the love for Dilla is shared virtually through DJ sets and pre-recorded interviews with friends and fam on DillaFest.com and the Apple store app YouSound.
Featuring the heavy hitting line-up of individuals Affion Crockett, Amp Fiddler, DJ Spinna, Dank, Dres of Black Sheep, Guilty Simpson, Illa J (Dilla’s younger brother), J Rocc, Mike Ross of Delicious Vinyl, Pete Rock, DJ Rhettmatic, Rich Medina, Robert Glasper, T3 of Slum Village and Terrance Martin, the fest started off with Frank Nitti explaining the run-down.
Ma Dukes (Dilla’s Mother), then chats it up with Nitti about Dilla’s early days of falling in love with music, especially James Brown tunes. Seeing that he had a keen connection to sound as a toddler shocked the family a bit. Words are ever so present in the loving way she smiles when she speaks of her son. DJ Rhettmatic, of the world renowned DJ crew Beat Junkies, kicked off the music action with a set of Dilla’s classics. This then flowed into the clips of all of those previously mentioned answering questions about how they met Dilla, first heard his music and how amazed they are at his impact and innovation in production.
To cap the almost two-hour extravaganza off was an afterparty being spun by the great Brooklyn, NY turntable master, DJ Spinna. Rare grooves and exclusive cuts were the perfect follow up to all of the insider knowledge we get from the interviews by Frank Nitti. Do yourself a favor and check the playback of the event and be as blown away as we were to find out that the bassline for Bilal’s “Reminisce” is three separate chops from three different bass samples in one line. Straight genius…but hey, that’s a J Dilla production. Check the 20th anniversary edition of the Welcome 2 Detroit album as well. It really is a sonic game changer.
Happy Birthday J Dilla.