Beats mae­stro’s blue­prints are his last­ing legacy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News - Jim Car­roll on mu­sic For more see irish­times.com/blogs/ontherecord

IT’S SIX YEARS to the day that the pro­ducer born James Yancey and known to us as J Dilla died, at the age of 32, from a rare blood dis­ease. Dur­ing his life­time, he was one of the most pro­lific mae­stros in the beats busi­ness, but it’s the way his blue­prints have gone on to in­form the hand­i­work of count­less other acts and pro­duc­ers that is Dilla’s real legacy.

From The xx to Fly­ing Lo­tus to ev­ery wide-eyed mav­er­ick pro­ducer aim­ing to record the buck­wild sounds they hear in their heads, Dilla’s sound­scapes have cast a wide net. At times, when you’re check­ing out the work of the new school, it feels like Dilla never went away.

As with any­one who dies in their prime, you can spec­u­late un­til the cows come home about what might have been. Dilla worked with renowned hip-hop and soul acts such as Erykah Badu, Com­mon, The Roots, Q-tip, the Phar­cyde, Ghost­face Kil­lah and dozens more, but imag­ine what would have hap­pened if he had been paired with a pop act.

Could Dilla’s mix and match of elec­tronic noises, eerie sam­ples and warm, evoca­tive in­stru­men­tal snatches have worked in tan­dem with a pop voice and tune? If you lis­ten back to his work on Q-tip’s Am­pli­fied al­bum dur­ing the week, it shows clearly that he had the skills and smarts to make such a big splash.

The first stop for any­one who wants to know more about Dilla is prob­a­bly Donuts, the al­bum he recorded on a por­ta­ble sound sys­tem on his death-bed, in hospi­tal, when he knew time was run­ning out. It shows a real mas­ter at work, sculpt­ing eerie, left­field swirls and stabs that are as deep in soul as they are wide in funk. Re­mem­ber him this way.

J Dilla: a sculp­tor of sound J Dilla: sculp­tor of sound

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