RIP J Dilla: 10 Tracks for 10 Years

t’s hard to believe, but today marks the ten-year anniversary of J Dilla’s death. He died three days after his 32nd birthday, and the release date of his final album, Donuts.

Though I didn’t know of J Dilla’s name until the day Donuts came out, my ears had already been quite familiar with his heats for years. I would come to learn that he was behind the boards for some of my favorite albums growing up: his fingerprints were all over The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia, not to mention Beats, Rhymes & Life, A Tribe Called Quest’s underrated fourth album.

Let’s not forget about those classic Soulquarian records of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, either. Where would Common be without Jay Dee, who pushed Like Water for Chocolate to the next level (and saved Electric Circus from being a complete disaster)? How would D’Angelo’s Voodoo – on which the drums embrace imperfect timing on every track save Devil’s Pie – without Dilla’s influence? I’m grateful we never have to know the answers to those questions.

I love this video of an interview with Erykah Badu in which she recounts the time J Dilla taught her how to sample songs. In the brief clip, you can already get a sense of Jay Dee’s genius and humility.

RIP Jay Dilla. Here are ten tracks to remember the dude with the drunken drums by:

Alex Oka