Today would have been Jay Dee's 39th Birthday. It's hard to believe it's been 7 years since he passed on. He was 32 years old. I can't remember how I found out exactly; if it was from DJ Brainchild, or Questlove or just The Lesson in general but I felt completely blind sided (as I'm sure all of his fans did) at work. It was like the candle you were using to make your way through the darkness was suddenly blown out by a gust of wind—who was there to lead the pack now? Who would we look to to inspire us to continually challenge ourselves musically in hip hop? That was the first day I'd heard a Jay Dee produced track played on HOT 97's airwaves during my tenure there, when DJ Enuff rocked about 3-5 joints during his Angie Martinez Rush Hour set.
I turned 32 yesterday, and in the several days leading up to my own birthday, Dilla's passing has weighed on my mind a bit. Lots of personal reflection and “wondering what I've done with my time”. I am amazed at all that Dilla was able to do in just 32 years, to have built such a massive, expansive and prolific body of work and inspired and catalysed and motivated so many of the genre's best. What have I been doing with my time? What can I do to leave a positive mark on people's lives at even a fraction of a percentage of what Dilla's work has—to fans of hip hop, fans of digging, fans of music?
Still searching through the cobwebs of my mind for that answer. While I figure it out, here are some Dilla events you might consider attending as well as some of my favourite Jay Dee/J Dilla productions.
DJs: DJ Sean O, House Shoes, Rhettmatic, Mr Choc, C-Minus, J Rocc & DJ Truly Odd
MCs: MED, Oh No, Roc C, Chino XL, Percee P, Blu & TaRaach.
DJ: SoulOne (H.I.S.D.)
Host: Jett I. Masstyr
DJs: DJ Center, DJ Parler, DJ Tara, DJ Stylus and DJ Shawn Dub
Special Guest: Just Blaze
Host: Fresh Daily
Featuring: Talib Kweli, Royce Da 5'9″, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Frank N Dank, Illa J, Clear Soul Forces, B Williams Experiment, DJ Spinna, DJ Sicari & House Shoes
Chris “Daddy” Dave, Robert Glasper & The Experiment/The Foundation w Mos Def — J Dilla Tribute at University of Michigan, Jan. 21, 2008
Also: Mocks I did for BBE for Dilla's The Shining that ultimately weren't used.