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J Dilla’s Matter to a Movement

J Dilla in the studio of fellow producer Madlib | Photo by Roger Erickson
J Dilla in the studio of fellow producer Madlib | Photo by Roger Erickson

Producers very rarely develop the same kinds of public profiles as the artists whose works they assist/architect/benignly neglect. Rap and hip-hop has managed to elevate the status of producers, but only somewhat – in this world, the producer only reaches that level of fame through effective branding, enigmatic reputation building, or putting out their own massively triumphant, if histrionic, material (Yeezy, I’m talking to you…in the .001% chance that you’re reading this).

Detroit-born James Yancey never really hit those heights, and it is unclear whether or not he actual wanted to. On the one hand, he cut his production teeth early with remixes and acclaimed singles for folks like The Pharcyde and Janet Jackson. On the other, his group Slum Village never really managed to launch on a massive scale, even with major label support at the late-90s/early-00s peak of music industry power.  In any case, you might wonder why a hallowed local indie band like Pattern is Movement might use a coveted First Friday at the Barnes slot to pay tribute to this specific hip-hop producer.

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Pattern is Movement will perform J Dilla covers for First Friday at the Barnes on 12/6

PIM
Pattern is Movement | Photo by Rachel Barrish

 

You may know Pattern is Movement as the indie-rock-pop duo responsible for that catchy cover of D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel,” but what you may not know is that members Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward actually performed in a rap group together as teenagers.

This fact may help to explain Pattern is Movement’s upcoming performance at the Barnes Museum, where they will cover- and only cover- selected songs from late hip-hop pioneer and producer J Dilla. The duo’s love for hip-hip, R&B and Gospel is not entirely surprising given the subtle hints of it in their music as well as in their choice of covers, but performing solely J Dilla music is new territory, even for them.

The much-anticipated performance will take place at the Barnes on December 6th for FIRST FRIDAY! Philadelphia Artist Spotlight. The event features performances from a powerhouse of Philly artists, including local DJ legend Mr. Sonny JamesLas Gallas and more. If you’re looking to spice things up for your first Friday, this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Reserve tickets for the event here. ($25, members free). Tickets get you into the event as well as gallery access and drink specials. Watch Pattern is Movement cover “How Does it Feel” below.

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Zilla Rocca and The Roots pay tribute to hip hop producer J Dilla

Local hip hop producer and musician Zilla Rocca has taken a moment to remind us of the significant influence of DJ J Dilla. Yesterday, Dilla would have celebrated his 37th birthday—had he not passed away at the age of 32 on February 10th, 2006, from a rare blood disease.

Dilla (born James Dewitt Yancey) was a legendary producer and DJ who emerged out of Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene in the 1990s. He worked with A Tribe Called Quest, Common, De La Soul, and others; he was also a founding member of The Soulquarians (with Roots’ members Questlove and James Poyser, as well as neo-soul musician Bilal).

To better understand J Dilla’s legacy, take a few moments and read this article written by Rocca called “The Beat Generation: The J Dilla Effect“—which Rocca wrote for the music blog Passion Of The Weiss. In it, Rocca explains what he thinks made J Dilla so important:

After listening to The Shining, Welcome 2 Detroit , Like Water for Chocolate, Amplified, Fantastic Vol. 2 and Jaylib’s Champion Sound was that Jay’s greatest triumph as a producer wasn’t necessarily the off-kilter pacing of his drums nor the seamless blend of phlanged-out samples and spacey Detroit synths. No—Dilla had the gift of making average, ho-hum, nonsensical rappers sound like superstars.People worship at the altar of DJ Premier because not only does he make burger-flippers like Group Home sound dope, but he makes technically GREAT rappers sound UNF*!#WITABLE (hello Nas, Royce, Common, Jay, Big, etc). And they’re right—his tracks have a signature thumping kick drum and harsh snares (that 9th Wonder still can’t mimic) coupled with 2-4 bar chopped up samples that never get in the way of the lyricism. No big drum fills, no crashing cymbals—just supreme head nodding.

Last April, The Roots paid tribute to J Dilla with a collection called Dilla Joints, in which they played renditions of some of Dilla’s greatest hits (including the song”The Stars,” which you can listen to below). Right below that is Rocca’s tribute, a track called “Let’s Do This,” which he recently put up on his SoundCloud page.

The Roots – Dilla Joints 06 – The Stars by Hypetrak

Let’s Do This (J Dilla Tribute) by ZillaRoccaNoir

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