Friday, February 6, 2009

The Train of Thought Lounge: J Dilla

For this week's installment of the The Lounge, I wanted to pay homage to one of the most influential and innovative beatmakers in the history of hip-hop, J Dilla. Tomorrow would have marked Dilla's 35th birthday, had he not lost his battle with Lupus in February 2006. The Detroit native was a founding member of the group Slum Village and also worked with a countless number of artists ranging from Busta Rhymes to The Roots to A Tribe Called Quest to Common to The Pharcyde, among many, many others.

The first song I want to share features my favorite marble-mouthed spittin', supervillain persona-adopting MC, MF DOOM, on an unreleased track named "Sniper Elite":

Sniper Elite (prod. J Dilla) - MF Doom

Some of you may recognize that beat as "Anti-American Graffiti" off of Dilla's brilliant album of instrumentals, Donuts. That particular instrumental was one of my favorites (hard to choose from so many) and DOOM's flow -- or rather haphazard, staccato rhyming style -- fits incredibly well here.

Next up, I present to you one of Dilla's signature tracks, 1995's "Runnin'" which he produced for The Pharcyde. This song instantly puts me in mind of 1990's hip-hop. Plain and simple, the opening loop comes on and in my mind, I'm about to watch Shaq and the Orlando Magic face Reggie Miller, Detlef Schrempf, Rik Smits and the Pacers from Market Square Arena on the NBA on NBC (that whole last part was also imagined in the voice of Marv Albert. Yes!)

Runnin - The Pharcyde

Finally, I'll leave you with the video for "Won't Do" from 2006's The Shining, which was released three days before his death. The part of Dilla is played by his younger brother, Illa J, who is an aspiring rapper himself . The visually-stunning video spotlights some more of the various artists who either worked with or were inspired by J Dilla.

Not only do I absolutely love this beat, but the tributes from his friends and family at the end of the video are especially heart-warming to me.

Rest in peace, J Dilla.

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