i'm deeply saddened to hear that jay dee (a/k/a j dilla, a/k/a james yancey)--a hip-hop producer's hip-hop producer, an unbeatable beatsmith, and a longtime personal favorite of mine--passed away this past friday at the all too early age of 32. dang.
dilla was much too fantastic to go so soon.
the man was a truly innovative and influential producer, but despite wide acclaim on the part of heads and critics, jay dee never quite got his due--"most slept on since pepto," he rhymed on welcome to detroit--and people continue to sleep on the amazing beats he crafted for tribe and common. surely, we'll see plenty of posthumous praise lavished upon dilla and his oeuvre, but fortunately there's always been a fair amount of consensus around the greatness of those early slum village sides and the various one-off classics jay dee cooked up for the likes of de la, the roots, pharcyde, busta, black star, kweli, d'angelo, and ms.badu--among others.
jay dee's filtered loops, trademark "sloppy" snares and handclaps, combo of (processed) live instruments, programmed bass, and dusty breaks, fondness for little, subtle musical jokes, and--above all--his impeccable ear for beautiful beats set him apart from a great many of his peers and set a template for a particularly poignant (at least in his hands) brand of neo-soul/true-school music.
jay dee's the soulquarian in the lower right corner
what many don't recognize is that jay was a more-than-decent rapper as well, usually outshining his slum vill bredren on pretty much any cut he spit on and displaying a virtuosity with rhythm and rhyme--in other words, a flow--that not only remains among the best i've heard from a producer (and this is largely before the advent of the rapper/producer) but gives a good many MCs a run for their money. (someone say pay jay?) seriously though, there aren't many lines on par with the braggadocio-turned-vulnerable boast, "i know it's me (pause) / yeah, i know it's me (pause) / i hope it's me"--and over a beat so bittersweet, you can't help but believe.
and don't get me started on rhyme schemes like: can't can't / can't can't / hands and / band and / can't stand / man's dance / sandman / damn man / hand-stand / wham-bam / hand brand / san fran / japan land--though, yeah, you gotta hear it in context and against the beat, for sure.
i'll just say it one more time: dang.
james yancey will be sorely missed on this earth, but we at w&w thank the man for blessing us with so many gems before he left. donuts is in the mail as i write this. can't wait to nod along.
.. peace jay dee // can't can't stop can't can't quit // & on & on & on & ..