Friday, January 30, 2009
'Gotta love it dawg, ya can't beat it'
James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006), better known by his stage name J Dilla or Jay Dee, was an American record producer who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career as a member of the group Slum Village, and was also a driving force in the production trio The Ummah. Yancey started his career under the name Jay Dee (based on his initials) but used the name J Dilla from 2001 onward. Many critics believe J Dilla's work to have had a major influence on his peers and that he embodied the neo soul sound, playing a defining yet understated role during the sub-genre's rise (roughly from the mid-90s to the early 2000s).
J Dilla was often dubbed "your favorite producer's favorite producer," and was highly regarded by hip hop artists and producers such as Madlib, Pete Rock, Common, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def, Pharrell, Waajeed, Flying Lotus, 9th Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Kanye West, and ?uestlove. About.com ranked J Dilla #15 on their "Top 50 Hip-Hop Producers" list.
J Dilla's illness and medication caused dramatic weight loss in 2003 onwards, forcing him to publicly confirm speculation about his health in 2004. Despite a slower output of major releases and production credits in 2004 and 2005, his cult status remained strong within his core audience, as evident by unauthorized circulation of his underground "beat tapes" (instrumental, and raw working materials), mostly through internet file sharing. Articles in publications URB (March 2004) and XXL (June 2005) confirmed rumors of ill health and hospitalization during this period, but these were downplayed by Jay himself. The seriousness of his condition became public in November 2005 when J Dilla toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. It was later revealed that he suffered from TTP, a rare blood disease, and possibly Lupus.
J Dilla died on February 10, 2006, three days after his 32nd birthday at his home in Los Angeles, California. According to his mother, Maureen Yancey, the cause was cardiac arrest. His last album, Donuts was released 3 days earlier, on February 7, 2006.