SCRATCH: J Dilla For Life

Getting ready for this blog I was in deep thought to come up with something wordy and introspective, but the music took over and I’m gonna hit it like this: J Dilla is the greatest.

I’m the biggest stan for Q-Tip. Most in my circle know he can do no wrong. Aside from making classics with Tribe, Tip’s biggest contribution to the game may very well be introducing J Dilla to the masses. When I was associate music editor for XXL, word spread about this group out of the D named Slum Village. I loved how they had a tribe reference in their name. Just for that, I knew they would be dope.

Even with the underground society already abreast of the trio (Fantastic Voyage Vol. 1 is classic status), when they were trying to get in the main game, it took a by myself drive in South Carolina (was a few hours long) to really understand the illness that is the Slum Village Fantastic Voyage Vol. 2 album with the soul sounds provided by Dilla. With all the amazing work to come from him in the years that followed, I am still connected to that project. How many albums you own (not songs, I’m talking albums) that instantly transport you to a trying time? Since the majority of that album was about baggin’ chicks, sexin’ chicks, dissin’ chicks, lovin’ chicks, breakin up with chicks, I could relate. I was going through all of that and Dilla’s grooves were the sonic backdrop to my mental untangling of various events with women at the time, as I drove for what seemed forever.

From then on, my ears would perk up whenever a dope beat would knock. I’d go down the list. “Did Premo, Pete, Large Pro, or Dilla, do it?” He snuck in my top tier of hip-hop produces with ease. Fast forward to Donuts coming out in ‘06, I once again found myself on a road trip with his music. This time rolling from L.A. to Vegas in the middle of the night with my boys Adell (West Coast Editor of KING Magazine) and Murph (senior associate editor of VIBE Magazine) for A’s b-day night out. We kept that album on repeat for the four hours going and much of the four hours going back. I rocked it so much that it became the album I would write a few stories to when I needed inspiration.

Questlove did an amazing myspace post awhile back on the greatness of Dilla’s production. This list has stuck with me since I first read it in ’06. Aside from the acute detail and memory that Quest is known for, the exact mention of these musical gems makes me go to the said tracks just to experience what Quest is praising so much. If you have an afternoon to fill up you should see how many of these you can hear, quite astounding.

To sum up his influence on the game is to see the abundance of mixtapes, parties, songs, t-shirts and such that comes out on the regular in honor of his name, fame and musical acclaim (I shoulda been a rapper). Too many direct things to list, as well as take to task the ones that mean well but don’t kick back some bread (if they make any) to his Moms or estate that helps his kids. There is one in particular that is Ma Dukes Yancy approved and assists in providing funds to his fam and it’s an album on Mochilla Records titled Suite For Ma Dukes.

You can cop the EP right now at iTunes to help Ma Dukes Yancy, who is suffering from the same health issues that claimed Dilla’s life, and get that warm and fuzzy feeling of doing something good in the world. The EP (with album to come in April) by Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood Ferguso is for us music heads that can appreciate the sound of hip-hop beats being converted to orchestrated melody.

As I was writing this I was finding mad Dilla joints I never heard. My today fave being “Fly Girl“, the dope shit is how simple the tumbling piano loop is against that pap-pap drum pattern. I also went to Twitter to see what some of the people’s favorite Dilla beats are…here’s a few from the following fam:

Dipan Vadgama says “Doonit” off Like Water for Chocolate
Young H Radio says The Pharcyde singles, “Show Me What You Got”
Chuck Anderson says Slum Village’s “Climax”, Tribe’s “Find My Way”
Dre’ of says “Oblighetto”, “Players” “Gobstopper”, “Forth and Back” and “Go Ladies”
Sean Beauford says “The Look of Love pt. 1”
Jbizjerzup says “Love Jones”
Roknowledge says “The Red” Jaylib album
DertyDen says “The New” and “Anti-American Graffitti”
RobtheMusicEd says “Climax” or De La’s “Stakes is High”
Jackpot says “Climax,” “Get Dis Money” from SV, “Don’t Nobody Care About Us from Phat Kat, “Runnin” from Pharcyde and “Little Brother” from Black Star
Marcusrespekt says “Get Dis Money”
Fuseboxradio says Slum Village’s “Players”

And I say
“Let’s Ride”
“Believe in God”
“Won’t Do”
“One Eleven”

And we won’t even go into him as a rapper…but check his little brother Illa J out.

For y’all that’s familiar with his work, what’s your fave Dilla joints?

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • Lance Mac

    Won’t DO
    One Eleven
    Fall in Love
    Get A Hold
    So Far To Go

    R.I.P JD
    Most talented producer ever. Hands down.

    • Da BlacKKK

      Aye co-sign Won’t Do. that shit be the illest

  • UARK83

    Much love to J Dilla and since this his is anniversary of his passing I’ll only give him props.

    My favs are:

    “Stakes Is High” – De La Soul
    “Much More” – DLS
    “The Light” – Common…one of the best joint of all time.
    “Runnin” – The Pharcyde
    “1nce Again” – ATCQ


  • Detroit Dave

    Nag Champa(Afrodisiac)- Like Water For Chocolate—- Common


    “Thelonious” – Common
    “Players” – SV
    “F@#k the Police” – 12″
    “Time: Donut of the Heart” – Donuts
    “Two Can Win” – Donuts

    Actually, Ima go ahead and throw all of Donuts in there.

    “Reckless Driving” – Ruff Draft
    “Make em NV” – Ruff Draft
    “Think Twice” – Welcome 2 Detroit
    “Come Get It” – Welcome 2 Detroit

    ….man that’s just the tip of the iceberg!


    tip of the iceberg:

    “thelonious” – common
    “players” – sv
    “f#@k the police” – dilla 12″
    “time: donut of the heart” – dilla donuts
    “two can win” – dilla donuts
    “reckless driving” – dilla ruff draft
    “makem nv” – dilla ruff draft
    “come get it” – dilla welcome 2 detroit

  • Chris S

    unfortunately i haven’t had the chance to hear as much of his work as i’d like.

    i really like “The Light” and “Love Is”. those are two classic beats

    “The Donut of the Heart” is a great beat too

  • EmCDL

    Aww man I really wish J Dilla was still alive and kicking out them fresh tunes. Honestly, I didn’t really know about him as far as production and whatnot; didn’t know that he did some of the ATCQ stuff. I heard that track “Find My Way” and been listening to that song like crazy ever since. Then I found out J Dilla produced that track, and ever since then I’ve been trying to find anything and everything that J Dilla has produced or spit on. I’ma try to remember, but these are some of my favorite tracks from him that he rapped or produced:

    The $
    Find My Way (ATCQ)
    Players (Slum Village)

    Its so many that I can’t even remember, but those are the ones I listen to the most from him. Anyone know of any other albums with his production on there so I can try to find and cop them?

    R.I.P. J Dilla; wish you were still around to give lyricists them dope soulful tracks

    • Em-C.D.L.

      Oh I forgot to mention that track he remixed for The Pharcyde “She Said (Jay Dee Mix)…shit is ill as hell

      • Jamal7Mile


        Ah, fuck it! I’ll be co-signing all night!!

  • capcobra

    “the light” is my favorite dilla track of all time…just listen to bobby caldwell “open your eyes” and then listen to common “the light”…dilla took something pure..stepped on it..and it still came back pure…gotta love that…R.I.P J DILLA.

  • Jamal7Mile

    Well you caught my heart for this evening/ kissed my cheek, moved out, you confused things/ should I just sit out or come harder/ help me FIND MY WAY… BOMP!!

    “So Hardcore” w/Busta Rhymes (*speechless)

    and right after that one “Let’s Get High Tonight” w/Busta.

    I truly, TRULY regret never getting a chance to meet the man… just to shake his hands and give him props. I joined his FaceBK fan list today. Rest in Paradise, Jay, and I’ll keep your Fam in my prayers!

    CHEERS to Detroit and Hip Hop!!!!

  • ThingAlec

    Thru Ya City w/ De La Soul
    Cant Stop This w/ Black Thought
    And pretty much any song he did on “Like Water for Chocolate” that album is a classic.

  • EBE725

    De La Soul- Much More… unbelievable
    Dilla- Two Can Win

  • daz_oc

    man too many to name…….

    the red
    Two Can Win
    Won’t Do

    others off the donuts album……i cant think but i know theres more

  • private school whitey

    “fuck the police” – dilla came out of nowhere with this anti-police track. knockin drums and ill flute loop. he kills it with the lyrics too!

  • Songstar!

    common-love is

    made me fall in love with music again!

  • Big Marv

    capcobra….said it well, about the Light. same can be said for:
    – So Far To Go, Isley Brothers …
    – Nag Champa…..
    – The Light…..
    – …. featuring Phat Kat….

    there are just to many….

    R.I.P. J Dilla, the producer’s producer

    beats, beats, beats,

  • Rob the Music Ed

    fuck the bullshit “Vivrant Thing” KNOCKED! That gotta go up there.

  • medski the prophet

    I won’t lie.

    I got emotional listening to that Donuts album for the first time. To hear somebody put that much love into the music definately left an impression…

    RIP Dilla Dog

  • oskamadison

    Slum Village’s “I Don’t Know” and “Players”, Busta’s “So Hardcore”, Common’s “Dooinit” and Tribe’s “Wordplay”

  • Australian

    how are people gonna forget about “Pause” off Welcome 2 Detroit.

    its not my favourite Dilla beat but it knocks hard!!


    Nag Champa
    Funky For You
    Love Is…
    It Ain’t Safe No More
    Turn Me Up Some
    Find A Way

    Shall I continue?…..

  • ronnie

    he is a god producer, no doubt. here is where i am torn. would i pick god j dilla or god premier to do a track>? to be honest, i don’t know which i would pick

    • Jamal7Mile

      Pickem BOTH Ronnie, pick BOTH them brothers!! I LOVE Dilla and that got nothing to do with me being from Detroit. I LOVE Preemo, Pete, Dre, Sermon, Quik, Too Short (yep, he make beats too), Easy Mo Bee, Rob Bacon, Sicknotes, D9, NoID, X-ecutioners, Rob Browz (production only), some Swizz Beats, Bomb Squad…

      I could go on and on… it don’t gotta be just one, or even the cliche Top 5.

      Good music is Good Music!

      Peace, bro

  • GO-Getta’

    Hope his younger brutha’ keeps tha family name alive..ya dig!
    The good die young,fast& so unexpectably.

  • Ali

    The Light….best Dilla beat….best hip-hop love song of all time

  • Rae Tha Great

    I went to the J-Dilla tribute last tuesday it was the best experience of my life a very big hip-hop moment seen everybody from Slum Village to Black Milk to Dwele and many more. I haven’t all his work and I’m from Detroit myself I got alot of music to study. His beats that kick & snare lets u know, ITS DILLA. The way the record got sampled and chopped, ITS DILLA. My favorites for me would have to be Common The Light, Faithful, & Its Your World. ANYTHING WITH ATCQ & Q-TIP. His personal joints “WILD & NOTHING LIKE THIS.” That video and beat was crazy it was like you leave your body when you listening to it. My main man got a Dilla beat I wanna get on it with so bad but I’m so scared to ask. I’M NOT WORTHY WAYNES WORLD VOICE. SIKE NAW DILLAS A ONE 0F ONE. PEACE DETROIT STAND UP!!!