Questlove vs. Jay Dee: The “Little Brother” Beat Story

As told by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson on Okayplayer.com.

there was a small airport in detroit that had direct flights to jersey and nyc that me and com use to take so much i swear they were gonna offer us stock in the business. it was early 1999 and this was before the jet blueitization of america. matter of fact, america looked down on those small companies after one of them crashed some months before. now we take that shit like its no thing.

anywho. we got word of a blizzard that was coming to the D and com wanted to take no risks and wanted to leave asap so he could make a show. so that left me dilla and frank of frank n dank.

i decided to stick to my normal schedule and stay til monday when i was scheduled to leave.
com decides to take the sunday afternoon jawn on the fly. of course i say he’s overreacting and im proven wrong once there was about 7 inches on the floor a few hours later. frank nitty laughs at me cause now im stuck in the D. we actually make the most of it. ran to blockbuster to stock up on flicks (detroit is the only place on earth street cats will let prince get away with murder so it was nice to rent under the cherry moon without cringing in front of non prince experts. we also rented my new favorite film of all B films Hav Plenty. stocked up on food. and for the first time ever just chilled for 2 days without the prime motivation being “work”. but of course that dont mean dilla didn’t provide me with the most amazing display of workmanship ive ever seen.

i mean i knew dude was the crazy when skillz let me hear a beat tape.

and i knew dude wasn’t right when booty brown played me a precabincalifornia.

and i knew i wouldn’t be the same when dangleo and tip played me the ENTIRE fantastic cassette over the phone LONG DISTANCE to germany (my bill was $382 bucks and WORTH EVERY FUCKING CENT)

and i knew i was in for a treat the many times i came to the crib.

and i knew i was witnessing history when him and pete rock re created half of “mecca and the soul brother” in the basement the weekend “dynamite” was created.

but man…..

what i learned eavesdropping 8am the following day made me a believer. that shit made me the stan of ALL stans.

if you are on my computer and need to find dilla. go to genre, and if he had something to do with it? it will be known for its tag: DILLA is GOD.

i won’t go into reasons why….for it could be longer than this post. and at this rate its just baiting those who disagree or who refuse to see it or who just wanna be contradictory (aka okayplayers lol)

so i heard this bassline playing for like a good 30 mins

(go to 5:07)

initially i was asleep on the couch upstairs so i knew the bassline from pete’s interlude. which i thought “oh he’s gonna recreate that interlude”

so i came downstairs and asked what he’s up to and he was like

(think brotherman on martin)

“…..nuttin…..just….you’know…..zonin…..tryna figure our how to freak this shit….i got an idea in my head but i have to figure out how to solve the puzzle…..its gonna come to me….but i got to figure out how….”

so then he plays

for like 40 mins straight.

—now this is the first straight up beat i saw him make from scratch. most of the time he just grabs the ram file and blamo the beat is up (day we first met the “got til its gone” parts were already in the machine and he just created “let’s start” for tribe so i had missed those)

first thing i notice is his patience factor….when i make beats i play the record on 45 im skipping parts i aint got time to listen to a record over and over and over and over again….

i ask him about this and he said its better to suffer for 30 mins with a record than to skim through the shit and next thing you know you hear someone else use a part you coulda freaked better but cause of lack of patience you opted not to.

hmmm novel thought.

so i asked which approach is his gonna take….and he said he wanted to see if there was another juicy part for him to take…

so now we a half hour into it i was like “well…..there are no clean parts…..roy is talking all over that shit over and over….its impossible to find a juicy spot.”

lol i wonder if he was appeasing me like “you mere mortal do you not know i created heaven and earth in 7 days? muahahahahahaah” in his head.

he just said

“yuuup….pssshhh man…..i dunno how imma freak it”

so he made a cassette copy for his range and we grabbed food before it was time to take me to the airport.

we went to greektown and came back and he decided before he was going to put the record to bed (this aint the first time he gave up on a loop….the breath and stop sample frustrated him so much he gave me the record to which he would reluctantly find something to give to tip on a last minute attempt) so before the airport he decided to record every piece of the song that had 0 talking on it.

so its like…

an hour later and he has made about 20 pads on the 3000 with samples no longer than half a second each.

he even did a “be my guest” and let me get on to see if i could make some chitterlings off the table scraps from the big house.

nothing.

he retired the thought and drove me to the airport.

i got home and he left a message on my machine.

“whoooooooooooooooooooooooo!! yo! i figured it out!!!!”

check it!!!

(this is okp’s own JP’s version of the beat so you can have a clear idea on how fucking impossible it is to find the open spots on this beat)

when i heard it my jaw dropped.

i was speechless. again. to understand dilla you must first immerse yourself in the music that he uses to create beats. and only when you hear this song more than 20 times you will soon see how fucking impossible it is to make this beat as a mere person (so what is JP up to by the way?)

then i was like “yo pete is gonna be fucked up when he hears THIS shit!”

dilla: NONONONONONONONONO!! naw man….you can’t let him hear this man i cant afford that!
?uest: afford what? this shit is a miracle!!
dilla: nah man….like i dont want no tension. that’s my idol i dont wanna give off the impression that im trying to outshine him….
?uest: but dog im saying if you shine then…..
dilla: nah man….
?uest: so all this shit i got with samples he’s us—
dilla: yeah man dont let that shit get out man….i just do it for practice….
?uest: wait….so this beat is never going to see the light of day ever? you just made it and lost sweat over it for…..sport?
dilla: yeah man….i just practice……

thank god…..kweli had a cassette which had this beat on it for like 15 secs.

they looped it from the cassette.

but it was too late and he shrugged it off….

but man……that humility.

if i found a way to bust somebodys ass for the world to see?

sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit i be the first to be like

“oh yeah chris? but can you play with drumsticks in yo pinky toe chump?!?!!?!?!?”

my man.

dilla.

Peace to Rafikam & nation for letting me know the audio was broken. And peace to Ahmir for sharing this story after many requests on the boards.

Author FWMJ

Founder of Rappers I Know and Art Director to the Stars...of the Underground. Follow him on Twitter @fwmj.

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