I have always liked Dilla.
I liked him before his listeners became fans, and his fans became stans, and the stans became a cult. Like everyone, I bashed the Pharcyde‘s LabCabinCalifornia album when it came out. “It’s not like the first one”, I thought as a juvenile Hip Hop head. Like everyone, I thought Tribe Called Quest‘s Love Movement album was too soft. “Yeah, a couple songs are cool, but that’s not Tribe!” In retrospect, I wasn’t ready for Jay Dee. He was ahead of his time, and ahead of the game. He created a sound that became a blue print for neo soul, Hip Hop, and many other sub genres for years to come. These artists that were rhyming over Jay Dee beats weren’t falling off, they were visionaries, just like Jay Dee was. After his untimely passing in February 2006, February has become honorary Dilla Month amongst the Hip Hop elite, and every year, the legend of Dilla grows stronger than the year previous, as he is remembered as the greatest beat maker of all time.
In 2005, I bought a iMac. I wasn’t too sure what you could do with it, but all I knew is that I wanted to make a CD mixtape, and I knew that with this big, white, spaceship-looking thing, I could do just that. I had made dozens of mixtapes before that, but tapes were well on their way out, and I knew I had to adjust my methods of DJing. Keep in mind, this may not predate Serato (digital DJing), but it definitely preceded Serato as the industry standard it is now. I didn’t even have internet at my house at the time, my $1,800 machine was being used strictly for music. The iMac was the first generation iMac, and it was also the first computer I ever owned, and it, similar to Dilla, changed my life.
I bought my computer in June of 2005, and the first thing I did on it was build up my iTunes and rip my vinyl…and eventually recorded mixes through Garage Band, a stock iMac program that is usually scoffed at by Pro Tools users and audio buffs. The first mix I ever recorded was entitled The Love Movement, which was a promotional mix for an event that D2S (my crew) was hosting at the time. The soulful/Hip Hop mix was handed out to friends and such, and was well received…and I was satisfied with it. I needed an encore. Something that would stick with music heads. Yeah, I can make a mix of the records that I got from my record pool, have it circulate for a few months, only to become stale when people got tired of hearing the songs after they’ve run their course. Then I thought, ‘I can do a Just Blaze mix!’ Just Blaze, is DOPE, but did I want a mixtape full of supercharged, NYC themed, Rocafella anthems? eh, not really…
Then I thought of the one who has the most amount of versatility…the one who as the perfect combination of rough and smooth…the one who has worked with all of my favorite emcees…the one who has (at that point) nearly a decade of work.. *I look through my crates* damn, I got a lot of Dilla records, too…Common, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, the Blue Remix Vinyl, Que-D, Phat Kat, Slum Village, and of course the new Jaylib heat..
…and then I was fortunate to interview N*E*R*D around the same time for a D2S episode, and during one of Pharrell‘s rants, he calls J Dilla The Beat King of All Time…
Yep, it’s settled. I’m going to make a J Dilla Mix.
In August-September 2005, I spent hours recording the Dilla Mix, and learning the iMac at the same time. After I had the final product, I would duplicate copy after copy from the CD burner, and hand them out to friends I would see while out in the streets. I burned hundreds. This was before the popularity of file sharing sites. I mailed them out. I left them in stores. I felt it was a good representation of the Dilla’s body of work, and it was a lesson in what legendary beat making is, and the music had to be spread. The mix was simply titled James Yancey Productions
The mix tapes official release was shortly after his passing in February 2006. Prince Aries blessed the audio with a beautiful graphic representation that you see here. Feel free to download James Yancey Productions, mixed by myself, DJ Haylow, for it is a way to pay homage to the late great beat making legend as we celebrate his birthday.
Thank you, Jay Dee.
1. Erykah Badu ~ Clever / Pharrell’s “Cool” Intro
2. Hev D. f/ Q-Tip ~ Just Listen
3. Phife Dawg/Tribe Called Quest ~ His Name is Mutty Ranks
4. Busta Rhymes ~ Woo Haa (remixes)
5. Slum Village ~ Fall in Love
6. Slum Village ~ Fall in Love (remix)
7. Phat Kat ~ Destiny
8. Common ~ Nag Champa
9. Frank-n-Dank f/ Tammy Lucas ~ Ma Dukes
10. Slum Village ~ Get This Money
11. Que-D f/ Jay Dee ~ Supa Shit
12. Q-Tip ~ Things You Do
13. De La Soul ~ Stakes is High (remix)
14. De La Soul ~ Stakes is High
15. Phat Kat f/ J. Dilla & Black Milk ~ Door
16. J. Dilla ~ Reckless Driving
17. Frank-N-Dank ~ MCA
18. MadLib/JayLib ~ The Red
19. Slum Village ~ Look of Love
20. J. Dilla ~ F*ck The Police
21. Phat Kat ~ Don’t Nobody Care About Us
22. Frank-N-Dank ~ Pimp Strut 22. J. Dilla ~ Crushin’
23. Cool Outro