"Detroit's Child" - J Dilla's legacy grows

Nov 19, 2010

Every once in a while you stumble upon a story that passed you by. Here's one I missed from Paul Farber, a former arts intern here at Michigan Radio.

Farber's story was about James Yancey or J Dilla, "one of Detroit's most prolific yet understated hip hop producers." A piece in the San Francisco Chronicle quotes one artist saying his work should be compared to "Jimi Hendrix, Herbie Hancock and all the geniuses in music."

J Dilla produced music with some of the hip-hop industry's biggest acts, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, and Common.

He also produced solo work with the big record label MCA, but his music often got tangled up in the machine that is major label music producing. 

A post on mog.com says J Dilla "was in MCA purgatory, with a one-year, two-album contract that got buried under a bureaucratic mess and was therefore never fulfilled."

J Dilla died in 2006 at the age of 32 after suffering from lupus and a rare blood disease (TTP).

He's one of those artists who has became more well known after his death that during his life. His mother, Maureen Yancey, says her son's legacy should continued to be embraced:

"He was always loved internationally. It was at home where he didn't have the love. So now it's time to open our eyes and ears and let us know this our child, Michigan's child."

 Farber reports that J Dilla's legacy lives on in the form of the J Dilla Foundation which hopes to provide support for budding musicians in Detroit's neediest schools.