I can laugh and grin saying that my mom was “hip”. Riding around in her Mazda with my older brother back in my elementary school days listening to Erykah Badu, Jay Z, Nas, D’Angelo, and even Wu Tang & Eminem. She got me so hip that I even spent my allowance money buying The College Dropout by Kanye West back in ’04 on the day of release.
During that time I was only listening to what was convenient for me. Radio, CD’s, and even old cassette tapes. I never delved deeper into the music to check out the collaborators, co-writers, and producers. Not knowing that behind some of my favorite songs and beats rested the man who was soon to be my favorite producer.
About 3 years later that changed when I found you, J Dilla. This is my letter to you.
My first encounter with you was in my early adolescence, staying up late at night to watch Adult Swim. Shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, FLCL, Lupin The 3rd, Family Guy, Cowboy Beebop and many more. In between these shows held the Adult Swim bumps, one of the pinnacles of my adolescence. It was a quick preview, but the moment I heard the track “Waves” I had to hear more. From that moment on, my journey to scour the Internet for more of your music had begun. Your music led me deeper into A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, who led me to The Roots and MF DOOM, who eventually got me deep into Flying Lotus and more. From then on I was guided into the direction of some of my favorite artist of this generation. Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, BADBADNOTGOOD, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Kamasi Washington and more. These discoveries all rooted from my deep interest in Dilla’s discography.
I discovered instrumentals that helped subtle that hectic thoughts in my mind like “Thought U Wuz Nice” for Phife Dawg, “Runnin‘” for Pharcyde, “Fall In Love” for Slum Village, and later on “Flowers” for Yancey Boys.
I found tracks from your Vol.2: Vintage collection that comforted me back in high school on those long bus rides across town at 6am. Tracks like “Circus“, “The Dee“, “On The 1“, etc.
And tracks that still bring a smile of nostalgia to my face after nearly 10 years since my first listen. “MASH“, “Last Donut of The Night“, “Gobstopper“, “Welcome To The Show“, “U-Love“, and “Waves“. All from your legendary album Donuts released 10 years ago today, on your birthday.
Reading stories about you laying on your deathbed making your album Donuts and even seeing videos of you on stage performing in a wheelchair touched and inspired me, knowing that until the very end you did what you loved.
I’m glad that I still get to hear new music from you thanks to your immense catalog of unreleased tracks. Your soul and influence still lives on everyday and I’m forever grateful for your contributions to music and my own life. Maybe in another I’ll actually get to sit down and have a conversation with you. You gave me a lot and I hope somehow I can find something to give back to you.
Thanks Adult Swim for introducing me to Dilla, my favorite producer, and thank you Dilla for leaving a permanent mark on my life. Happy Birthday. #MuchLove ?