James Dewitt Yancey has garnered all the posthumous acclaim you’d expect for a hip-hop visionary underappreciated outside of his circles. Whether it be for his impeccable choice of samples through a multitude of different styles, his uncanny knack of blowing your mind with his musicianship or his humility in a sea of egos and gold chains, he is revered as a legend beyond the realms of hip-hop music, and rightfully so.
Dilla Month is heating up with some exciting projects dropping every day. Atlanta’s Darryl Reeves recently released a mixtape featuring his band’s renditions of their favorite Dilla beats and it’s not something to pass up. The Dillaquarium Mixtape boasts live covers of “Fantastic,” Donut Man,” and more in the seven-track voyage through Dilla hits.
Chris Dave’s ‘Drumheadz Mixtape’ is dropping tomorrow and we’ve got an early listen to “Cosmic Slop” off the record. A cover of a rare Dilla beat (only 40 seconds), the track is a favorite of Dave’s as well as Pino Palladino. Check out the track and a quick interview we got with Chris!
Before the Internet, I can imagine that the art of sampling was much more arcane. I wish I could speak from experience in this case, but I am a child of the Digital Age. My venture into hip-hop began well after global interconnectivity was established. We now live in a world where it is nearly impossible to not know the samples behind one’s favorite hip-hop or R&B record. With sites like WhoSampled.com and The-Breaks.com, one can look up a track and immediately find where all the track’s chops came from. This all comes complete with YouTube videos and Spotify links, and the exact time where one can find a sampled portion in an original track.
The Robert Glasper Experiment’s anticipated remix of Black Radio dropped earlier this week with a whole new set of gems to match the originals. With names like Questlove, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Solange Knowles, and Georgia Anne Muldrow among others attached to the project it was sure to pack some heat and surely it did.
In the realm of hip-hop sampling, the sounds of vintage keyboards abound. Although the Fender Rhodes has been a common sonic choice by producers, samples of other vintage keyboards are widespread in the genre as well. West Coast hip-hop from the early 90s, for example, was characterized by the inclusion of portamento-ridden synths (mostly sampled from Parliament-Funkadelic, hence the spinoff term “G-Funk”). However, few beat-makers have chosen to sample the Hammond B3 Organ, one of the staple sounds heard in jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, and progressive rock since the 1950s.
Karriem Riggins is synonymous to jazz. Karriem Riggins is also synonymous to hip-hop. Karriem Riggins makes beats using MPCs, drum sets, samples and anything he can get his hands on. Karriem Riggins rhymes. Karriem Riggins is a musician, a teacher, and a father, but most importantly he is Karriem Riggins. The only thing he prescribes in is what he hears and that’s why you should get to know him.
What you hear in her voice is ancient and inexplicable. She channels grandmothers and griots to bring audiences to the precipice of tears as easily as she incites eruption. Erykah Badu takes stage as both installation art and high wire act. While she has not made a career of being boastful, it is very clear that the queen bee knows who she is. A combination of Abbey Lincoln, Billie Holiday, Chaka Khan, Parliament’s mother ship, and a Hendrix solo, Erykah Badu is the direct byproduct of a lineage preserved and most effectively expressed through song. A sociologist with a rolodex of great producers and an equally impressive catalog of hits, Badu sings a world based very closely upon the one she inhabits, but clearly thinks and aspires to a plane none of us will reach in this life. A voice as joyful as it is pained, her sound does less to rely on the ridiculous range that carries most vocalists, leaning instead on an awesome amount of versatility, unpredictability, and depth.
As the great voices of jazz and soul music are silenced, Erykah Badu – arguably the first successful mutation of both movements — could very well be the last of a dying breed. In an interview with music superstore, Amoeba, trumpeter Christian Scott may have said it best, “I always applaud her for her conviction because she’s such a great artist and really on a lot of levels I feel like she could be the last great jazz singer, which is kind of disheartening a little bit. But just her sensibilities – her ideas about music, how she approaches her music, the notes that she sings, her inflections; I think she’s really a huge light for us right now. Hopefully there will be someone that’ll come and grab the torch from her, but I don’t really hear it yet, so she’s the one right now.”
Harlem Stage’s Uptown Night’s presents, A Tribe Called Quest Innovations & Legacies: A Movement in 4 Parts held on March 1-3rd at The Gatehouse and Marian Anderson Theater. On March 1st, Harlem Stage hosts an artist and industry panel discussion, March 2nd, a performance by The Revive da live big band at Marian Anderson Theater with special guests and on March 3rd a very special performance by The J Dilla Ensemble from Berkee College of Music with special guests, all in tribute to ATCQ.
Not only did Dilla produce a plethora of beats with an inventive sound and sonic quality that changed how producers and fans alike listen to hip-hop but he also birthed a generation of musicians that directly related to the influx of hard bop and jazzy grooves that defined how many musicians interpret hip hop live today. In tribute to the genius of Dilla, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite live performances portraying the music at it’s best.
Clive Davis started Arista in 1974 signing huge recording artists such as Outkast and super R&B icon Whitney Houston. Jive was formed in 1977, and was one of the biggest bases for hip-hop groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Too $hort, and Boogie Down Productions in the early days, and was later known as the premier label for pop supergroups such as ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and the ever venerable Britney Spears. J Records was was also founded by Clive Davis in 2000, and housed artists like Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes and the late J Dilla.
Black Milk has a great way of eliciting crowd participation and getting the crowd hyped, which is easy considering his stage presence and the fervor emanating from his band members. Daru Jones is a beast on the drums and amazing to watch. At times, he’ll punctuate a beat or the hit of a snare by standing up and sitting back down. Hunter and AB are also passionate musicians and it’s easy to see how involved they are in the music as the emphatically rock and nod their heads to the beat.
With his widely acclaimed new album, Album of The Year, recently released, Black Milk has been making moves into the spotlight. Aside from his solo work, Milk’s production discography reads like a who’s who of hip-hop including artists such as Slum Village, Big Pooh, KRS-One, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, and more. With Album of The Year, Black Milk sought to integrate samples and live instruments into coherent tracks, thus making his performances that much more exciting to see it happen live. This night, he will also be honoring the memory of J Dilla. Joining Black Milk will be Danny Brown and DJ House Shoes.
DROM got lit up Friday night with point on performances by the likes of Illa J (who also took a stab at the piano for his set), T3 of Slum Village, and Q-Tip who was later joined by fellow Tribe member Jarobi for a few classics including “Award Tour,” which closed out the night. In between sets DJ Metaphysic and Mick Boogie held down the Dilla duty, parsing through Jay’s tracks to the delight of the audience. Overall the night was made special by the love put into it by all of the performers, as well as Ma Dukes and Joylette Hunter, head of the J Dilla Foundation and Dilla’s former fiancé.
In honor of J Dilla, Jay Dee, James Yancey’s birthday, check out some links to remember and honor his influence on modern music:
Among the myriad of Dilla tribute shows happening in the next week or so, “One Won’t Do Pt. 2,” a collaborative effort by The J. Dilla Foundation, ThisIsRealMusic.com and The Smooth Operators Movement, stands out as one of the most exciting. Building on the success of last year’s event, the team got together to make it even more exciting this year by bringing you performances by Dilla’s brother Illa J, along with T3 from Slum Village and Q-Tip.
“If you start not accepting creativity and you start having manufactured songs, then what is—where is the industry going? What do you get inspiration from? You know what I mean? That’s why Miles was Miles, because he was really able to create, and just have a blank canvass and create masterpieces.” – Vince Wilburn