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Producer Jay Dilla dies at age of 32

Posted on February 12, 2006 by


Detroit based producer Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla, who has worked with many established rap groups including A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village and Common, died February 10th at the early age of 32.

Jay's manager Tim Maynor announced that he died Friday morning in Los Angeles, but the cause of death was not undisclosed. Dee, born James Yancey, had been battling kidney problems for the last few years, but Maynor thought he had recovered.

"He was the best ever, and very underappreciated," Maynor said. "Dilla was very reserved, quiet, all he wanted to do was make beats, make music. It wasn't about the glitz and glory. He wasn't doing it for the spotlight at all. He's a dinosaur who will be missed."

"I am devastated at the world's loss of a musical genius of Charlie Parker proportions," Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of the Roots said. "Too often we bestow the 'greatest' title upon those who have the attention of the press and the charts and radio. But if you were to secretly ask the most praised hip-hop producers, if given a top three, who they fear the most, Dilla's name would chart on everyone's list, hands down. I am fortunate to have known this man. He inspires me to perfect my craft in every way. Dilla was and will always be my hero."

"Me and Jay Dee were very, very, very, very good friends," said D12's Proof, who got his first tattoo with Jay Dee, an "FC" for Funky Cowboy, their pre-Slum Village/ D12 group. "He produced my first demo. As a producer, he is one of the most influential producers ever, even up to Kanye West or Just Blaze. Jay Dee had a signature sound that a lot of people were influenced by. People will never understand his genius. It's a shame that he didn't get the light of a Dr. Dre or Timbaland or Neptunes, but he took more of a jazz-musician approach to the whole game. He was truly a mastermind."

Under his rap name J Dilla, he released an album called "Donuts" last Tuesday and had another one set for an April release entitled "The Shining." Maynor also said that the hard working Dilla, was only two tracks away from a third album this year. "He never stopped working," he said.

Jay spent December touring Europe performing in a wheelchair after he suffered knee problems. J Dilla was a great ambassador for the rap scene and put his life into making himself successful. When Maynor suggested postponing the tour, Jay said it was something he had to do. "Maybe he knew something we didn't," Maynor said.

Jay has a huge influence on hip-hop thanks to his production work for the likes of Common, D'Angelo, De La Soul, Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes and also worked as a member of A Tribe Called Quest's production team, the Ummah, as well as his personal group, Slum Village.

"He was a trendsetter, the soul sound [in hip-hop] is really Jay Dee," RJ Rice, founder of Slum's label, Barak Records, said.
"I don't know if he'll ever get credit for it or not, most people just copied him."

"I'm f---ed up, my n---a just passed away," fellow Slum Village member T3 wrote on his MySpace page Friday.

As a part of Slum village Jay recorded "Fantastic, Vol. 1" in 1996, before the group signed to Goodvibe Recordings and then released "Fantastic, Vol. 2" in 2000. In 2001 Jay released "Best Kept Secret" under the alias J-88 and returned in 2002 with Slum Village's "Trinity (Past, Present and Future)."

Jay left Slum Village in 2002 and released "Welcome 2 Detroit," starting off UK indie label BBE Music's "Beat Generation" series. He also hooked up with Madlib to form a group called Jaylib, who released "Champion Sound" in 2003.

He spent the majority of 2004 working on other people's albums, including Common's "Be" and spent part of the year in hospital.

"What happened was that the doctor told me that I'd ruptured my kidney from being too busy and being stressed out and not eating right," Dee told Urb magazine in 2004. "He told me that if I'd waited another day, I might not have made it."

"Sometimes that fixation can be a good thing and sometimes it can be bad. There'd be days when I wouldn't eat at all because I'd be in the basement working all day," he said in the interview. "This is definitely my second chance, my wakeup call. I still love the music, but I wouldn't put it first in my life. It's family first, and then everything else."

Proof says Jay always said he was feeling fine, although they only tended to talk on the phone in recent times.
"It didn't hit me until today, but I think he just didn't want his friends to see him in that light," Proof said. "He wanted us to remember him how it was."

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