Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm

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Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm

Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm

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Damn, that’s crazy,” James replied. “I’m surprised.” Something about this gesture didn’t compute for James: a producer promoting someone who could potentially be competition. But Q-Tip was from a different school of thought: brotherhood. This is where Charnas’ book excels. It puts Dilla at the centre of a revolution still resonating today, casting Dilla as an artist that added a human touch to machine music, brought emotion to the monotonous twos-and-fours. While at times overly technical and certainly too long, Dilla Time places the producer at the centre of a musical revolution as big as anything from the last century. Few musicians have influenced music like Dilla, and now we can truly understand how. Now, one year later, armed with a new recording budget, here was a chance for the crew at Electric Lady to truly partner with the producer who had become a persistent specter in their musical lives, the man whom Questlove called “The God,” the unlikely digital divinity at the center of their analog sanctuary. An ambitious, dynamic biography of J Dilla, who may be the most influential hip-hop artist known by the least number of people. . . A wide-ranging biography that fully captures the subject’s ingenuity, originality, and musical genius.” — Kirkus (starred review) J Dilla’s influence is in every song we hear today, and yet his one-man 1990s revolution long went unappreciated: Dan Charnas aims to change that in his new book, ‘Dilla Time’. Stream: ‘Donuts’ – Dan Charnas

La ville du détroit is what the French called the place: “the village on the strait,” a fur-trading post beside a narrow, straight passage between two great lakes, founded in 1701 by a naval officer named Cadillac. One hundred and four years later, after the English took le Détroit from the French and the American colonists took Detroit from the English, President Thomas Jefferson sent an emissary there to serve as the Michigan Territory’s chief justice. By the time Augustus Woodward arrived, the entire town had burned to the ground after a barn fire, its six hundred inhabitants huddled beneath makeshift shelters. The Roots’ twenty-three-year-old drummer, Ahmir Thompson, was their de facto leader, with his trademark afro their de facto logo. The world would later come to know him as Questlove. But on this evening in 1994, outside a small North Carolina venue, he was an unknown. What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods. In diving into Dilla’s kaleidoscopic, voluminous catalog of releases, beat tapes, bootlegs, overseas rarities and the like, Charnas does not let anything get by him – with regards to the music James made, who he made it with, and precisely how it was executed. He tunnels from the inspiration to the samples, the equipment to the cannabis, and oscillates even further into the Church of Dilla and its mythical abyss.Equal parts biography, musicology, and cultural history, Dilla Time chronicles the life and legacy of J Dilla, a musical genius who transformed the sound of popular music for the twenty-first century. I listened to the audio book, narrated by author Dan Chanas in a way that flowed well with the book's content. When I learned that the written book includes diagrams I got a copy of that also, but I found that Chanas has done such a good job talking about "time" in music that the diagrams were unnecessary for my understanding! This is one of the book's biggest strengths - explaining in a clear and persuasive way what was unique about J Dilla's beat - and how it relates to musical styles that came before, how it influenced hip hop and a lot of popular music, how Dilla created it, how it evolved, etc. Musical TIME is a main character of this book just as much as Dilla is (as the title, Dilla Time, suggests). This is a huge strength of the book, and it's why it works as a fairly long biography of someone with a short life. In 1999, writer Dan Charnas met J Dilla and Common while the two musicians were working on Common's album Like Water for Chocolate at J Dilla's home studio in Conant Gardens, Detroit. [4] [5] Charnas cites this meeting as "the real origin of the book." [5] Stunning portrait of the short life and fast times of James Dewitt Yancey … sad, funny and unfailingly humane, it’s not only one of the best books this writer has ever read about hip-hop but also sets a new gold standard for writing about music full stop’– Ben Johnson, Mojo Magazine Questlove, D’Angelo, and Poyser got giddy during James Yancey’s visits to Electric Lady Studios, and the musicians around them began to understand why. Pino Palladino had received his first lessons on Jay Dee when he joined Questlove and D’Angelo in reconstructing Slum Village songs during their jam sessions. But in person, Palladino realized Jay Dee—on keyboard or MPC—was a bass player, too. He marveled at the unique sense of space in his playing and programming, with a phrasing that was almost akin to that of reggae. The guy hears the whole band, everything. And then places his notes precisely where they need to be in relationship to everything else.

As an associate professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, Charnas taught a course called "Topics in Recorded Music: J Dilla" that discussed J Dilla's musical techniques and influence. [5] [6] He began work researching and reporting for the book in 2017. [7] Charnas interviewed over 200 friends, family members, and collaborators of J Dilla throughout the research process. [5] That was “Bullshit,” they answered, one of the songs from their new album. Produced by that kid we told you about, Jay Dee. This intimate, honest profile is the definitive J Dilla tome, an illuminating, intoxicating, and sobering sojourn into a man’s life, legacy, artistic contributions and musical revolution by way of groundbreaking productions, prolific output, ever-loving communities, and the seemingly-infinite reverberations of his genius.

Dilla Time

Among generations of family, dozens of friends, fans, disciples, label reps, lawyers, rappers, peers, and competitors, not all of their memories, opinions, narratives or motivations would necessarily align, and yet the author was able to extract potent recollections from nearly every relationship of any consequence during James Yancey’s short time on Earth. It’s a delicate dance only made possible by the author’s unwavering integrity and transparency, as evidenced by his meticulously-footnoting every last discrepancy—no small feat. This book is a must for everyone interested in illuminating the idea of unexplainable genius." —QUESTLOVE



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