How J Dilla Reinvented Rhythm (Article)

KingsOfKings

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It’s the late 1990s. James Dewitt Yancey — known as Jay Dee, and later as J Dilla — was already a well-known hip-hop beatmaker, working on records by A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde as part of a production collective called the Ummah, started by his mentor Q-Tip. But Yancey’s music was going through a bizarre transformation. The rhythms he was generating on his MPC drum machine had started to “limp,” fusing straight and swung grooves into a revolutionary new sonic language. Within a couple of years, Dilla’s digital broken beats would permeate hip-hop, R&B, and pop; and more important, be adopted by a generation of traditional musicians.

Dilla, who died in 2006, has become an iconic figure in rap history. In the following excerpt from Dan Charnas’ excellent new book, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm (MacMillan, out Feb. 1), the author tells the story of how Jay Dee’s “Dilla Time” rhythm made the leap from machines to humans, and how he and collaborators like D’Angelo, Questlove, Common, and Erykah Badu came together in New York to found a world-changing musical community called the Soulquarians.

D’Angelo’s star rose with his first album in 1995. After three turns around the sun, his long-awaited follow-up had yet to break the horizon. He lingered in a place beyond time, searching for something that had been lost: the sound of soul music before the machines took over.

D’Angelo’s partner Q-Tip had embarked on this quest with Tribe back in 1990, when they created “Bonita Applebum,” sampling pieces of a Fender Rhodes keyboard lifted from the RAMP song “Daylight.” The warm, tubular tones of the Rhodes electric piano embodied the seventies soul sound. Then, in the 1980s, they were replaced by the cooler sonics of synthesizers; and the subtle grooves of human drummers gave way to the rigid grid of machines. Just as hip-hop producers used drum breaks from the 1970s to break free of that grid and impart some human groove to their compositions, A Tribe Called Quest’s great innovation was to revive the harmonic complexity and sonics of that decade by using samplers and sequencers rather than traditional instruments. D’Angelo traced his own epiphany as a programmer to Tribe’s second album, Low End Theory: in the right hands, he realized, machines could evoke soul, too.

D’Angelo could use both traditional and digital skills in his resurrections. He thought deeply about the placements of notes—a little ahead, a little behind, what those shifts felt like—and about how humans and machines worked together. Even so, he wasn’t satisfied with the sound of his first album. Brown Sugar felt thin compared to, say, Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind. New records tended not to sound like old records, because new records were made on newer, ostensibly better equipment that didn’t really sound better. D’Angelo had recorded his first album at the modern Battery Studios where the Ummah produced their music. For his follow-up, D’Angelo wanted a record that sounded less polished—to hear human mistakes, to hear the room itself. So he decamped in late 1996 to a neglected studio where time had stopped: Electric Lady, built by Jimi Hendrix, tucked into a tiny building on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village, on a block known for shoe shops, not show business. But Electric Lady was where many of the records that inspired the hip-hop generation were recorded.

The two biggest rooms of the three-studio complex were underground. In the control rooms, the equipment was powered by tubes and transistors rather than microchips. Walking into the control room of Studio A for the first time, D’Angelo touched the old Focusrite board and felt the spirits. Through the glass, in the spacious, oval-shaped wood-paneled live room of Studio A, sat a dusty Fender Rhodes keyboard. Not just any Fender Rhodes. The Fender Rhodes—the Holy of Holies, the one that created the sound of modern soul music; the same one that Stevie Wonder played on his greatest albums, the same one that RAMP employed on “Daylight,” and, by extension, on “Bonita Applebum,” the song that launched the aesthetic for Tribe, the Ummah, and D’Angelo himself. Electric Lady was the mother, the matron, the matrix of the very sound they sought. Deeper still, beneath the floorboards, ran the Minetta Creek, the buried watercourse of ancient Manhattan. For an old soul like D’Angelo, this was like coming home to a place he’d never been, a sacred place to commune with his ancestors.

More here How J Dilla Reinvented Rhythm
 

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Dilla Book is dropping next tuesday. I've had that thing on preorder since June of last year

I ordered Dilla Time last Saturday and it was supposed to arrive on Feb 25th, then it got cut to V-Day, and now it’s gonna be delivered this Saturday :blessed: Amazon can be the fukking GOAT on its good days lol

Edit: It’s coming tomorrow now :blessed:
 
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Tommy Gibbs

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I'm only half-way thru due to deadlines I gotta meet. As I stated before, I like reading and holding a physical book, but if I'm at high school games (which I frequent twice a week) I'll listen or watching sports, I'll mute the tv and listen to things. Over halfway through the book, I'm starting to question what the purpose of the book is.. It's very informative and there are things in it I never knew about, but I didn't need to know about Dilla's domestic abuse issues, multiple abortions his mother paid for, disrespect of parents, strip club addiction (I knew he loved the strip clubs, but damn), infidelities, and his treatment of those around him. I just didn't need to know all of that, and I don't see a reason that anyone else did either. At the end of the day, the author is a white man, so I blame myself for not expecting some Tasha K smut in the mix.
 

Yapdatfool

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I'm only half-way thru due to deadlines I gotta meet. As I stated before, I like reading and holding a physical book, but if I'm at high school games (which I frequent twice a week) I'll listen or watching sports, I'll mute the tv and listen to things. Over halfway through the book, I'm starting to question what the purpose of the book is.. It's very informative and there are things in it I never knew about, but I didn't need to know about Dilla's domestic abuse issues, multiple abortions his mother paid for, disrespect of parents, strip club addiction (I knew he loved the strip clubs, but damn), infidelities, and his treatment of those around him. I just didn't need to know all of that, and I don't see a reason that anyone else did either. At the end of the day, the author is a white man, so I blame myself for not expecting some Tasha K smut in the mix.

If you watched the bling47.com/wajjeed videos of Dilla's friends/peers revealing samples he's used, watch DJ House Shoes videos and you will get a LOT of this kind of 'smut' from him.

That's probably who it came from :manny:
 

Insensitive

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Actual fukking Hip-Hop content in the booth.

Cool.

Alright since we're actually discussing Hip-Hop here's a link to the music intricacies of what J. Dilla is actually doing.

This is a 4 part blog post breaking Dilla and his infectious swing/groove down:

The Dilla Feel, Part I: The History (J Dilla and The Soulquarians)

The Dilla Feel, Part II: The Theory (Quintuplet Swing, Septuplet Swing, and Playing “Off-The-Grid”)

The Dilla Feel, Part III: The Grooves (Real-World Examples and Dilla's Influence)

The Dilla Feel, Part IV: The Application ("Philodendron & Pothos" Lo-fi Hip-hop Beat)

Read this shyt.
 

Tommy Gibbs

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If you watched the bling47.com/wajjeed videos of Dilla's friends/peers revealing samples he's used, watch DJ House Shoes videos and you will get a LOT of this kind of 'smut' from him.

That's probably who it came from :manny:
I don’t fukk with that kkkrker House Shoes. I see how Detroit befriend ate allowing this man to disrespect Dillas mother PUBLICLY due to songs she was releasing. But they constantly talking about a “no fly zone”. Maaan, I wish a cracker would publicly disrespect One of my dead homies’ mother line that. I’m fukking him up.
 

Yapdatfool

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I don’t fukk with that kkkrker House Shoes. I see how Detroit befriend ate allowing this man to disrespect Dillas mother PUBLICLY due to songs she was releasing. But they constantly talking about a “no fly zone”. Maaan, I wish a cracker would publicly disrespect One of my dead homies’ mother line that. I’m fukking him up.

In the thread mad folks was cosigning Shoes over his moms to keep Dilla's 'legacy' (can't remember if I posted there or not) intact.
 

Tommy Gibbs

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In the thread mad folks was cosigning Shoes over his moms to keep Dilla's 'legacy' (can't remember if I posted there or not) intact.
fukk that music. We’re talking about respect. But I guess it’s how they get down in Detroit. They’ve always had an infatuation with kkkrkkers. Lol. All I know is if it would have happened around my way, everyone would have been in a competition as to who would beat his ass first.
 
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