• 08Feb

    Dilla – The collabos

    One thing is for sure. Our man J Dilla was not lazy. He was one of the most prolific producers in the business. And outside of a few duds his consistency was only matched by a DJ Premier or Dr. Dre. Although his work was valued by a particular slice of the Hip-Hop world his discography was/is extremely impressive. Common, Madlib, Eykah Badu, Janet Jackson, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Steve Spacek, The Pharcyde, Pharoahe Monch, D’Angelo, Slum Village, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface, Guru, The Roots and more.

    What we are going to discuss today is some of Dilla’s most notable collaborations.

    In between leaving Relativity and signing to MCA Common released a single on Rawkus “1999” b/w “Like They Used To Say.” “1999.” It was produced Hi Tek (and featured an ‘uncleared’ sample from a record we released on Seven Heads by The Unspoken Heard, but that is another tale). I remember speaking with Jarret Meyer, president of the label who was telling me how when Hi Tek and Common met the Cincinnati producer and Chicago MC immediately formed a kinship based on their Midwestern roots. He attributed this geographical bond to the funky fresh vibe of the record. I think the Detroit born Dilla also had this bond with the bald headed MC from the city of wind. Outside of Slum Village, Dilla’s best work was with Common and vice versa (well after NO ID and Doug Infinite – I think Common’s best records were produced by them but that is…).

    On his 4th album, “Like Water For Chocolate” Common left his Chicago producers and settled into his new sound. “Like Water…” was the book end of Common’s best work which started with “Resurrection” and “One Day It Will All Make Sense.” It was on “Like Water…” that Common first worked with Dilla. Although the collective, Soulquarians, were credited with a lot of the production work it is Dilla’s sound that permeates the record. “Nag Champa” may be my favorite Common record of all time. The flow, the beat and vibe are very Fantastic Vol. 2-esque. And of course there is Common’s first legit hit, “The Light” which was a Dilla Dog production. That song turned moved Common up the industry food chain in a clear way.
    “Heat”, and “Time Travellin’” are the Chicago to Detroit connection at its best. Common gave Dilla the elite MC that Baatin and T3 could never be. That is taking nothing away from the original Slum Village lineup. Common at his best has not been able to put together an end-to-end masterpiece like Vol. 2. But Common as an MC was able to match Dilla’s excellence as a composer/producer. Just as I wish Primo and Jay Z would lock themselves up in D&D for a month and do an album I wish Dilla was able to cure Common’s creative wanderlust and do the same.

    The second great Dilla collaboration was his work with Madlib. In the eccentric LA producer Dilla found a brother. Their album “Champion Sound” as Jaylib – unfiltered genius. Although it has its low points and I wish they had strayed the formula of not rhyming on their own tracks the album is brilliant. Where Dilla’s work with Common was more sophisticated and polished, with Madlib Dilla got raw.
    “I don’t be around the way
    Like I used to I don’t have time these days
    I keeping busy making power moves
    I don’t fuck wit them coward dudes
    I keeps it bouncing
    When the P.I’s wanna wish for death, I’m C. Bronson”

    “Champion Sound” and the Madlib/MF Doom album “Madvillainy” were he highlights of indie Hip-Hop’s brief collaborative stage where we saw team up albums from 9th Wonder and a whole host of players, Marley Marl and KRS ONE and others. The pairing of Dilla and Madlib seemed like it was hatched during a marketing meeting at first until a song here and a song there began to leak. I remember at the Winter Music Conference in 2003 when the original “Champion Sound” was being prepped for release. After hearing “The Official” any thoughts of a contrived album went out the window. This pairing was the truth and the fruition of a long, somewhat unkown relationship between the two MC’s/Producers.

    The album was straightforward in its premise. Dilla would rhyme over Madlib beats and vice versa. Given creative freedom while simultaneously maintaining a static form of creative control gave us a new side of Dilla. In Slum Village he had to share the mic. With the Ummah he was strictly behind the boards. With “Champion Sound” and other solo work including “Ruff Draft” and “Welcome To Detroit” you got to hear not the progressive neo-Native Tongue side, but the young brother from Detroit with swollen pickets side. He added diversity and even a dissenting voice to what was being labeled underground. Dilla showed that underground MC’s did not have to conform to one mold. As he said on Make Em NV from the Ruff Draft EP,
    “If I get the urge to splurge or bling I do it
    It’s nobody’s concern, they ain’t got a thing to do with this…
    These backpackers wanna confuse it
    Cause Niggaz is icey ain’t got nothin to do with the music
    So hater mind your biz and get your own.”


    I encourage you all to listen not only to Dilla’s work with Slum Village, Common, Busta Rhymes but also the solo and collaborative work. You will hear the sounds of a true genius.

Discussion 3 Responses

  1. February 7, 2009 at 1:01 am

    [...] Brooklyn Bodega Dilla Week – Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 [...]

  2. February 10, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Not a day goes by where I don’t find myself listening to a dilla dawg production. The man was on another level creatively and inspired so many cats. I love the joint he did with Steve Spacek (dollar$). The way he flipped that sample was str8 Jay Dee genius. Even my moms loves Dillas work.R.I.P J D Yancey..one of the illest to ever do it.

  3. February 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Its a mystery that dilla is still a mystery. you’d think with a portfolio as diverse as his, he’d be a household name. Why is it that he’s not as well knows and premo and dre?