Nujabes and Dilla: A Celebration

Anyone who knows me knows the immense respect I have for the work of departed hip-hop greats J Dilla and Nujabes. They created such incredible music while they were with us and their influence reverberates in the best of today’s hip-hop. They also happened to share a birthday. I’m gonna talk a little bit about why I’m such a fan and you guys can share your thoughts in the comment section if you are so inclined. Happy Birthday, Maestri. You are missed.

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Dilla Day Special: J Dilla Starter pack

Before you read this, make sure this is playing:

First, that video is still and will always be a masterpiece, then, I bet a few things:

  1. That, that’s one of your favourite songs ever.
  2. That it’s probably not your favourite song just because of Janet’s vocals (lovely as they are)
  3. That you didn’t know that the record was actually ghost-produced by a man named James Yancey aka J Dilla…well…maybe you did. You are on this blog after all. You must know your musics 🙂

Haiya, now…

Dilla Day is upon us.

What is Dilla Day you ask? Well, every 7th of February we celebrate the life and work of arguably the best hip hop producer of all tahm.

 

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He’s the best in my book anyway…

Also known as Jay Dee or John Doe or even MC Silk, Dilla continues to bless even 9 years after he was taken from us. The man’s music simply transcends. Hata sijui niseme nini… The things he did with samples and an MPC are beyond what words can adequately describe.

This year, I’m going to put together an introductory selection of Dilla’s works for those of you who are still in the dark. You are welcome.

No. 1

Fantastic Volumes 1 & 2

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With rappers 3T and the late, great, Baatin, Jay Dee made up the critically acclaimed, Slum Village. Together, they pretty much created the quintessential Detroit, backpacker sound. When I was really getting into the man, these are two albums I started with. The sound is SUBLIME. Smooth samples, cocky, clever rhymes and just the deepest boom-bap bassline. I was a woman obsessed. Stank face and head nods all day. He has both MCing and production credits on this.

My favourites are Keep it on from Volume one and Players from Volume 2 (which happens to be my best Dilla beat of all time).

No. 2

JAYLIB: Champion Sound

A collaborative album by two of the best to ever do it: Madlib and JayDee. With mind blowing samples like in “The Official” (above) and hella fun tracks like “Raw Shit” featuring Talib Kweli (below)…this is a must have for any Dilla aficianado.

 

No. 3

Donuts

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Made whilst he was in hospital, this is without a doubt Dilla’s Magnum Opus and swan song. So BOLD and RAW and BEAUTIFUL and SICK is this album, that it sometimes brings me to tears. Truth. The excellence….the man…the GOD is palpable in Donuts. Talk about next-level-shit. Hata leo, I am yet to hear a hip hop production with this much artistic merit. This album sounds like it was made ages ago, today and not yet, all at the same time. Timeless. The album was released 3 days before his death on February 7th 2006, which happens to be his birthday. He would have been 46.

My favourite track on this lightworks.

So there you have it, an introduction to Jay Dee.

This isn’t even an iota of what the man did production-wise. Have a look at his full official discography (let’s not even get into the ghost-production he did).

We love and miss you Dilla. Your drums play on!

2. Quiet Brilliance: Celebrating the life and works of Nujabes

We continue our Forever Maestro February month by commemorating the life and works of one of Hip Hops most talented, yet underrated producers, Jun Seba aka Nujabes.

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The first time I heard Nujabes’ work, it was on an edit of Amerie’s “One thing”. Someone had mashed up Nujabes’ Aruarian Dance with the hit and to be honest, I wasn’t that crazy about the edit itself…but I LOVED the track. I ended up looking for it and to this day, it is my calm-down song. That and Goapele’s “Closer”.

Next time I heard Nujabes was on the soundtrack for the alternate edo-era-Japan, hip hop anime “Samurai Champloo”. I mean the music that Nujabes and co. created for this show practically MADE the show. After listening to the soundtrack a few times, I went a-hunting for the rest of his stuff…and thankfully, there was a lot!

Nujabes’ is considered a jazzy, hip hop artist, but honestly I feel he transcended that title. He made this mellow, atmospheric, gorgeous stuff that was all at once contemporary and nostalgic. It was also really sophisticated with long, winding horns and intricate piano pieces…so silky and calming and unaware of itself. It was Zen Hip Hop.

Sadly, Nujabes died in a car accident on February 26th 2010, at just 36 years old.

It’s not too late to discover his work though. Check out this soundcloud which has a pretty comprehensive collection of his work.

Also, I would recommend getting Samurai Champloo for a chance to really appreciate the nuance of his music. It’s only 2 seasons for all you commitment phobes.

Considering his first major release was in 2003, the indelible mark his work made on hip hop and on music in general should tell you something about the quality of his work. He is missed deeply.

Rest in Beats Maestro.

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