In an effort to further explore the myriad and "Komplicated" musical tastes of the modern "post-Black" denizens of the world, we present Spin City, which will feature recommendations from some of the world’s finest DJs, headlined by the selections of our own "resident DJ," comic book fan, Star Wars and wrestling aficionado and all around swell guy, the world famous DJ Jedi [Facebook, Twitter and podcast]. He's graciously agreed to drop the science on musicology for you …
February is officially J Dilla Month.
It's been nearly six years since one of the greatest and most prolific producers in hip hop history, James Yancey, aka J Dilla, aka Jay Dee, was taken from us due to complications from Lupus at the young age of 32. In that short time, the Detroit native had the honor of working with everyone from D'Angelo, Prince, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest & De La Soul…to Common, Erykah Badu, Janet AND Michael Jackson…and so many more.
In the observation of his birthday (Feb. 7th, for those of you keeping track), this week I'm doing a special themed list consisting of my top 10 all time favorite joints from the late Mr. Yancey: rap, production, or otherwise. Top 10, as opposed to the usual 5 weekly picks, because it would be criminal to narrow down such a deep catalogue to such a small number. Even listing only 10 feels almost like sacrilege.
In no particular order:
- Slum Village, "Raise It Up" (Fantastic, Vol. 2 LP)
This song is one of the most anthemic Dilla productions ever, as far as I'm concerned, and probably one of his wittiest verses, to boot. Many an innocent bystander has caught an accidental elbow to the face if they happened to be in my vicinity when a DJ dropped this in the club.
- Slum Village, "Beej-N-Dem" (Fantastic, Vol. 1 LP)
The story of "Beej-N-Dem" is the story of many of my experiences with Jay Dee's music: I would hear something he produced, completely fall in love with it, strictly on some fan-of-the-music ish, then find out after the fact that Jay Dee was the one responsible for said production. The first time I heard "Beej-N-Dem," the artist formerly known as Mos Def and Kweli were freestyling over the instrumental in the style of the (then unknown to me) Slum Village emcees on a now classic episode of LA's legendary Friday Night Flavors mix show. I made it my mission track down this brilliant piece of auditory awesomeness. Once I found out that it was dude from the Ummah that produced all those bangers for De La, Tribe, Pharcyde, and Busta…and this was HIS group? As in, an entire album of Dilla beats to look forward to? I knew I would be a Slum Village fan for life. "Beej-N-Dem" is the joint that made me a fan of SV.
- J Dilla, "Workinonit" (Donuts)
I think I love this song so much because it's so different from anything Dilla had ever done up to that point. The rock sample..The borderline punk, double-time syncopated drums..the frenetic pace. But somehow still hip hop. It all just works. "Workinonit" is the joint that really brought home for me how versatile and fearless of a producer Dilla was. He could sample ANYTHING and make it fresh.
- J Dilla Feat. Guilty Simpson, "Take Notice" (Ruff Draft)
This beat is hypnotic. So much so, that the emcees feel inclined to just kick back and let the beat ride for the better part of a minute and a half before they get around to actually, you know, rapping. Oh, but once they do, it's a PROBLEM. Guilty delivers one of his best verses ever, and Dilla more than hold his own. Plus, those drums are MURDER on a pair of speakers.
- J Dilla Feat. Black Thought, "Reality TV" (Jay Stay Paid)
This beat KNOCKS! Plus Black Thought turns in a better performance than just about anything he's done on the last two Roots albums. I miss "fun" Black Thought.
- J Dilla Feat. Common, "E=MC2" (The Shining)
The first time I ever heard this, I was driving down Melrose with a homie on the way to a gig we were spinning at that night. I almost swerved off the road when the beat dropped because my head was bobbing so hard. Possibly the last classic that Common ever spit on. Only fitting that said classic was courtesy of a Dilla beat. Thank you, Jay Dee.
- J Dilla, "F*** The Police" (12")
It's a wrap from the second those drums come in, and the neck damage just continues from there. Don't say damn, just say woooooooooah …
- MOOD, "Secrets of the Sand" (Jay Dee Remix) (12")
A slept on classic from right around when Dilla was hitting his stride. I love the way the beat walks the fine line between chill, vibey, melodic ish, and skull cracking, boom-bap hip-hop.
- J Dilla, "Trucks" (Unreleased MCA Album)
No luck finding any video or streaming audio for this song anywhere on the interwebs, as the legal rights to anything pertaining to Dilla's infamous MCA album remains in litigation hell. Sorry … But this song is a MONSTER. Trust. Imagine the Gary Numan "Cars" sample if Dilla ran it through an MPC 3000 and applied his golden touch to it. The result is ABSOLUTE STUPIDITY. Hopefully this will one day see an official release. In the meantime, if you ever see me spinning at a show, feel free to politely request this banger and I'll be happy to make both our nights.
- Slum Village, "Untitled" (Fantastic, Vol. 2 LP)
Most producers will go their entire lives and never even come close to creating something as beautiful and flawless as this. "Untitled" remains to this day the only hip hop song I've ever heard in my life that made my eyes well up the first time I heard it. The only reason tears didn't actually fall is because I have a heart of stone and the biological side-effect is that my tear ducts don't work so well anymore. That being said: "Untitled" was at least able to get them sh**s to well up. Fantastic Vol. 2 is one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time. There's a section toward the middle of the album that I believe to be some of the most perfect 15 minutes of music ever recorded on an LP. "Untitled" is track 10 on Fantastic, Vol. 2, and the song that kicks off that 15 minutes of perfection. Make no mistake: the previous 9 tracks are about a half hour of straight skullf***ery up to that point. But that's just to pummel you into submission for the true brilliance about to ensue. So classic.
Need more Dilla in your life? There are tons of J Dilla Tribute events taking place throughout the month of February. Here are a couple going down that I'll be spinning at this week. Hope to see you.
MOMLA: Motown On Mondays
J Dilla BDay Edition (Jedi, Expo, House Shoes, Jim Mahfood, and more spin Motown classics & Dilla soul samples)
Location: The Short Stop
1455 W. Sunset Blvd.
LA, CA 90026, 21+
RAISE IT UP, Vol. 2: A Tribute To The Music Of J Dilla
(Jedi, Houseshoes, and some of the greatest DJs on the planet, spin selections from one of the greatest producers on the planet)
Admission: Free all night
Location: Little Temple
4519 Santa Monica Blvd.
LA, CA 90029, 21+
ALSO: Not Dilla related, but a guaranteed good time nonetheless …
(DJ Ervin Arana and guest DJ Jedi spin the best in 80s & 90s R&B, New Jack Swing, Neo-Soul, & feel-good hip hop)
Admission: Free all night
9300 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232, 21+
Barring unforeseen challenges, Spin City should be waiting for you, right here on Komplicated.com, every Monday afternoon.