The career of J Dilla (born James Yancey) was illustrious, if tragically abbreviated. A solid and soulful Detroit beat wizard who produced seminal work with an impressive list of artists (The Pharcyde, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common, Busta Rhymes and our own Erykah Badu.), J Dilla accomplished in a decade what most artists spend a lifetime to achieve: an indelible mark on the art of their time. Donuts, a collection of some of his best bite-sized break beat instrumentals, was released just a few days before he succumbed to complications from a rare blood disease and lupus n February, three days after he turned 32.
Saturday night, the Absinthe Lounge hosted a relatively low-key tribute with some locals putting their best rhymes over some Jay Dee tracks. When cornered, those involved lovingly espoused the legacy of the late, great Mr. Yancey's legacy: "Everytime I listen to something with a J-Dilla beat," said Tahiti, "it's like listening to hip-hop for the first time." As if still on the mike, Pikahsso let fly with an avalanche of vocabulary: "Greatness. Loquacious. An institution. A hip-hop martyr." More from the tribute after the jump. --Geoff Johnston
DJ Frantic and Rob Viktum took turns blending J Dilla cuts that have become recognizable rotations on many a turntable. The sets were brief, and at times the PA was sketchy, but the performances outshined the drawbacks. Pik and Tahiti traded a few playful barbs with Frantic's Clever Monkey cohort Big J joining in to officiate over a battle of nappy beards. Chucky Sly spat some steady shit before neo-soul sister Thesis downshifted into some groove-riddled serenades.
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The occasion was far from somber, bordering on joyous, and the air reeked of love. The club staff and crowd were almost annoyingly polite. But there were still reminders that this was definitely a hip-hop show rather than a wake, like when a respectful moment of silence was preceded by the request, "Yo! Shut the fuck up!"