By Bad Seed
From 2006 Album: "The Shining".....
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James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 February 10, 2006) R.I.P. better known by the stage names J Dilla and Jay Dee, was an American record producer who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. According to his obituary at NPR.org, he "was one of the music industry's most influential hip-hop artists, working for big-name acts like De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and Common."
After quietly serving as a member of A Tribe Called Quests production team, the Ummah, and scoring hits for Busta Rhymes, De La Soul and Pharcyde, Detroit producer Jay Dee became known as a major hip-hop prospect by the late 90s. The hip-hop community took notice of his no-frills, breakbeat-heavy hip-hop style as he helped craft albums for Common (Like Water for Chocolate), Q Tip (Amplified), and the debut for his own group Slum Village (Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1).
By the time of his major-label debut with Slum Villages Fantastic, Vol. 2 in 2000, Jay Dee was recognized as one of hip-hops most admired and desired producers. Jay Dees debut as a solo artist came in 2001 with the single Fuck the Police and the album "Welcome to Detroit" on BBE.
After assuming the name J Dilla, he joined the Stones Throw roster in 2003, forming Jaylib with fellow producer/MC Madlib, and relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles. The duo released the The Red b/w The Official in 2003, followed by the album "Champion Sound" and a tour the following spring.
When Pharrell Williams was asked about his favorite hip-hop producer during a BET interview in 2004 he replied, You may not know his name, but J Dilla, Jay Dee from Detroit. Indeed, the interviewer didnt know - J Dilla has eluded the spotlight, preferring the studio to the stage or video. His work is mostly released by independents, for different groups, and under different names, but his core audience and cult status has grown. His pirated beat tapes (instrumentals, raw working material for rappers) have become something of urban legend, as their circulation from hand to hand and over the internet have led to a black market of Dilla beat tape collectors.
Despite contributing two tracks to Commons career-resurrecting "Be" this year, its been a quiet time for Dilla. So where has he been ? A cover story in URB (Mar 2004) made public his recent, sudden struggle with illness, and recently rumors began circulating again about health emergencies and hospitalization. Asked about this in XXL (June 2005), Dilla himself partially confirmed these stories. The rumors were like, Jay Dee is dead and all that, but I was just in the hospital. I was in ICU, with all types of tubes. It was crazy.
Working both from his home studio and while hospitalized - from a portable sound system including turntable, samplers, and small boxes of vinyl brought in and out from visitors - Dilla continued making music at his usual non-stop pace, circulating beats to MCs, and coming up with the foundation of what would become "Donuts".
Begun simply enough as a production beat tape, "Donuts" evolved into a project as unusual as the environment in which it was created. Its a hip-hop album without MCs. An album of electronic music that at times sounds like a 70s soul mixtape. Its abrupt transitions and numerous interludes might make you think youre rapidly turning the radio dial in some strange city where every station is programmed by a certain Detroit hip-hop producer. "Donuts" is J Dilla doing what he does best - crafting hip-hop, soul and electronic music into his own sound. And a few have asked, Whats up with the title ? Easy explanation. Dilla likes donuts.
Health concerns again reached a peak in November 2005 when J Dilla toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. Jay Dee passed away on February 10, 2006 at his home in Los Angeles, California due to kidney complications associated with lupus nephritis.
Dilla's legacy has grown exponentially, with many artists still referencing him in lyrics or outright using his prodigious back catalogue of beats for their work.
Dilla's memory also stays alive with the J Dilla Foundation, which aims to find a cure for lupus. J Dilla leaves behind two daughters, and younger brother Illa J, who just released his debut album Yancey Boys last November.