8 Years Later
Eight years ago today James "J. Dilla/Jay-Dee" Yancey passed away. Like many talented individuals before him, dying young catapulted Dilla's name, art, and image to cult-like status. The last eight years have seen a lucrative industry emerge in the name of celebrating Dilla's music, life, and legacy. The fandom has reached such proportions, that I even stop myself from listening to too much Dilla for fear of being a part of a "trend" I've come to be annoyed by. How do you like that, a connoisseur of Dilla production since his early work with Pharcyde and official fan since first hearing Slum Village in 1999; feeling guilty for listening to "too" much Dilla.
I've got a feeling I'm not the only one stopping himself from listening to too much Dilla. However, I suggest those of my ilk take a step back and consider the big picture for a moment. As annoying as it may be at times, the fandom that Dilla's music has generated since his death is overall a good thing for hip hop and music. I have 19 year old college kids coming into my office asking me about sampling techniques and where they can buy an MPC because of Dilla. Sure it's annoying that their music knowledge of Dilla's work often goes no deeper than Donuts, but everybody has to start somewhere. Most of the next generation of hip hop heads will learn about Tribe, De la, Slum Village, Madlib, Pharcyde, D'Angelo, The Roots, etc. through Dilla. These same heads "in progress" will learn about sampling, record diggin', chopping, etc.. because of their Dilla fandom. Due in large part to Dilla and the legacy that his young death combined with his extraordinary talent generated, the hip hop music that you and I fell in love with and still love to this day, will live on for one generation more. That is a very good thing. So the next time you find yourself getting annoyed by some new jack wearing a "Dilla Changed My Life" t-shirt, ask yourself; aren't there much worse things to have your life changed by?