Speaker-thumping, reggae-flavoured instrumentals from French producer JazzMaster J.
Speaker-thumping, reggae-flavoured instrumentals from French producer JazzMaster J.
The UK’s DJ Matman drops something for the Valentine’s Day crew with this soulful mix featuring the likes of Jodeci, Leon Haywood, Roy Ayers and more.
The always-impressive deejay-slash-producer Kenny Dope digs into the Kay-Dee store catalogue for this lengthy mix of funk, soul and Hip-Hop.
J Squared and Steve The Sleeve prepare for this year’s Notting Hill Carnival with this genre-jumping mix of timeless tracks which have all rumbled speakers at the infamous London event over the years – hit play below to hear music from Tenor Saw, KRS-One, Stevie Wonder and more.
Latest edition of NY’s No Ideas Original radio show featuring music old and new from The Beatnuts, Illa Ghee, J-Live plus more – listen here.
This week’s edition of NY’s No Ideas Original radio show featuring music from Royal Flush, EPMD and Starvin B plus a studio appearance from Juxx Diamondz – listen here.
“Beat Diggin’ – The Original Diggin’ Documentary”
(Busybody Films / CrateEscapeRecords.Com / 2012)
Filmed in 1997 during a visit to the Hip-Hop mecca of New York City, this documentary from Danish film-maker Jesper Jensen is a visual time-capsule that captures a handful of the East Coast’s most revered producers demonstrating, explaining and celebrating the craft of beat science at the tail-end of Hip-Hop’s golden-era period.
In today’s digital age, the collecting of vinyl, obsession with beat-digging and idea of spending hours inside cramped record stores may seem like alien concepts to some, with more and more music now being consumed and created online. But regardless of how much technology may have influenced the way some of today’s Hip-Hop is made, the importance of preserving the culture’s history and studying the original methods of the greats is as critical as ever, with “Beat Diggin'” providing an insight into the love shared by some of your favourite producers for the simple pleasure of sifting through stacks of vinyl to find that one perfect sample just waiting to be turned into Hip-Hop gold.
Included here in both its original, rawer 1998 version and an expanded 2003 re-edit, the film finds Jensen following the likes of Da Beatminerz, Showbiz, Diamond D, Buckwild and Godfather Don in the Rotten Apple, both record shopping and in the studio, as they continue on their endless search for the perfect beat.
Mr. Walt talks through his process of finding potential sample material, which includes smelling the vinyl, whilst Godfather Don discusses his dislike of what he calls “pick-up truck production”, which the talented individual defines as a technique used by producers who try to take drums and sounds from too many different sources, leading to a cluttered, disjointed product rather than a cohesive collage of music that is able to stir particular emotions in the listener.
John DeSalvo of NYC’s legendary Bleecker Bob’s Records describes the sometimes complex relationship between vinyl vendor and Hip-Hop production clientele, explaining how the purchases of dusty-fingered diggers influenced the type of music the store would look to stock, as well as admitting his surprise at how some of the best beats sampled by customers were found on some of the least impressive records.
With the documentary being filmed at a time when the unique, secretive sampling practices utilised by those seen here to create classics from the likes of Black Moon and O.C. were starting to be overshadowed by the radio-friendly loops of the Puffy-led shiny-suit era, questions regarding the integrity of some of the music coming from the East Coast at that moment are met with respectful yet forceful answers. Evil Dee explains how much of his enjoyment in making music is to be found in the challenge of finding new, inventive ways to sample in order to disguise and change the original material, whilst Showbiz states that he always follows the advice given to him by DJ Premier when it comes to making beats, which is simply to keep it Hip-Hop.
Another highlight is studio footage of Mr. Walt working with independent favourites Shadez Of Brooklyn on their album which, unfortunately, would never get to see the light of day. Yet the passion and ferocity heard in the voices of the crew as they spit their rugged rhymes over bass-heavy Beatminerz production stands as a reminder of the hunger that can always be found in the Hip-Hop underground.
Both interesting and entertaining, “Beat Diggin'” stands as an important snapshot of the drive, creativity and dedication shared by many at a point in Hip-Hop’s history when true heads were striving to keep the essence of the culture alive as the music started to feel the tight grip of mainstream commercialism.
“Beat Diggin'” DVD Trailer
Kooley High – “Rae Intro” (M.E.C.C.A. Records / Fat Beats / 2011)
Taken from the six-man North Carolina collective’s recently released album “Eastern Standard Time”.
Download Down South turntablist DJ Y-Not’s latest mix “Lazy Afternoon VI” here.
From DJ YNOT: “To my folks, here’s the latest in my mix cd series, ” Lazy Afternoon VI”, made for indolent days and nights. Laid back rap, soul, funk, and even a rock break or two for your third eye pod. This mix probably isn’t for everyone, but if you’re reading this it’s most likely for you, lovely how you let ya mind float. Enjoy!”
If – “Fly, Fly The Route, Shoot”
Super Beagle – “Dust Out a Sound Boy”
The Impressions – “Finally Got Myself Together”
O.C. – “ Burn Me Slow”
Wet Willie – “Beggers Song”
People Under the Stairs – “ Carried Away”
Aloe Blacc – “ Find Your Way”
Lee Fields – “Ladies”
Prince Fatty – “ Shimmy Shimmy ya”
Count Bass D – “Down Easy”
Y Society – “Of and On”
Bk-One Feat Black Thought – “Philly Boy”
Large Professor – “LP”
Natural Yougurt Band – “Space Echo”
DJ Day – “Four Hills”
Kenny Dope – “Get on Down”
Shafiq Husayn – “Dust n Kisses”
Maxmillion Dunbar – “Bare Feet”
The Chakachas – “ Jungle Fever”
Eightball & MJG – “Candy”
Bits and Pieces – “Don’t Stop the Music”
DJ Spinna feat Senor Kaos – “Call Me Senor”
Jazz Liberators feat J Sands – “When the Clock Ticks”
Chin Chin – “Go There With You”
Rappin’ 4-Tay – “Playaz Club”
Jimmy Mcgriff – “The Bird”
East of Underground – “Smiling Faces”
Coke – “Na Na
Eli Escobar – “Heavenly Break”
Tom Scott – (Just Edit) “Today”
Main Ingredient – (J.re-Edit) “Magic Shoes”
Turtles – “I’m Chief Kamanawanalea”
Maceo & The Macks – “Cross the Tracks”
Ripple – “Funky Song”
Kool and The Gang – “Jungle Jazz”
Lee Parsons – “Music Turns Me On”
Harvey Mandel – “Baby Batter”
David Axel Rod – “Jahil”
Pookah – “Things Don’t Matter”
The Elephant – “Do What Ya Love”
Antibalas – ‘Che Che Cole”
Fat Back Band – “Is This the Future”
Jackie Moore – “Time”
Bobbi Humpfrey – “San Francisco Lights”
Trackademicks Feat Moxmore – “Topsidin”
Earth Wind & Fire – “Brazilian Rhyme”
James Pants – “ I Choose You”
Central Line (Larry leven 12 Mix) – “Walking Into Sunshine”
Organized Konfusion (Bill K Mix) – “Walk Into th Sun”
Phenomenal Hand Clap Band feat Lady Tigra – “15 to 20”
Mike 2600 – “Now Here’s a Funky Beat”
Final Edition – “I Can Do It”
Bag Raiders vs Sammy Bannas – “Fun Punch”
Goody! Goody! – “Leggo a Dis One”
Heart Warmer – (Flufftronix edit) “Love Song”
Empire of The Sun – “Walking on a Dream”
Dillinger – “Plantation Heights”
Rap industry vet Wendy Day at a recent conference giving her opinion on the latest attempt by major labels to stay afloat – the 360 deal.
Ms. Badu performing “The Healer” from her “New Amerykah” album at the House Of Blues in Dallas, Texas.
The loss of a loved one can impact those left behind in many different ways. In the case of 20-year-old John ‘Illa J’ Yancey, the tragic death last year of his older brother, producer J Dilla, motivated the aspiring beat master to start chasing his dreams.
Born into a musical Detroit family, the youngest of the Yancey clan watched as his big bro climbed the hip-hop career ladder one dope track at a time, ascending from underground Motor City talent to being considered one of the greatest producers of all-time by the global rap audience. When Dilla lost his lengthy battle with the lupus disease last February, Illa J decided to turn personal tragedy into triumph, making moves towards his own music career while honouring his talented sibling every step of the way. In April 2006 Illa was asked by live band Guerrilla Funk Mob to perform Dilla’s rhymes at a Detroit tribute show, a concept which was taken on the road soon after for a European tour. The young Yancey was also seen appearing as his brother’s likeness in the video to ‘Won’t Do’, a track lifted from Dilla’s posthumously released BBE album ‘The Shining’.
Having dropped out of university and relocated to Los Angeles in order to further his plans, it’s clear that Illa J is serious about leaving his mark on the hip-hop landscape. Currently putting the finishing touches to a debut album that will see Illa both producing and rhyming, he’s also working on projects with former Dilla-associates such as Guilty Simpson and Phat Kat, as well as filling the void left by his brother in the Cake Boys collective, which also counts Frank-N-Dank as members.
In London for a few days recently, UKHH met up with a humble but determined Illa J at his Camden hotel to talk about Dilla’s legacy, musical influences, and the need to be original.
Turn it up!
Considering you were substantially younger than Dilla, at what point did you actually realise that your brother was a producer?
There wasn’t really a particular point when I realised that my brother was a producer because music was something he’d always been doing while I was growing up. I’d go to bed at night and he’d be working on something and then I’d wake up in the morning to go to school and his music would still be playing (laughs). My parents were musicians as well so music was just something I was used to being around and it was a natural thing to me.
Was there a moment though when you realised that the music your brother had been working on in your family home was actually having an impact across the world?
The first time I saw the video to The Pharcyde’s ‘Drop’ on TV I was like, ‘Oh damn! My brother did that.’ Then the ‘Runnin’ song blew-up for them as well. But at that point I was still so used to Dilla being involved in music that it really didn’t register with me how many people were actually out there hearing what he was doing. It was until after Dilla passed and I did a tour in Europe that I really saw the impact of what he did. It was just amazing to me that I was all the way out in another country and yet my brother had touched so many people in these different places with his music. That’s when I really felt the impact of what he’d achieved. It was crazy to see that but it also gave me a sense of closure and comfort knowing that so many other people had love for my brother and that his memory will always stay alive because of that.
When did you decide to get involved in making music yourself?
I always wanted to do music from when I was younger, but at that point in my life I was worrying too much about what other people would think. Beings as my brother was so exceptional at what he did, I didn’t want to get into it because of all the pressure that would come from being Dilla’s brother. But after he passed I realised that life is short and that I should just do what I love to do, which is make music. Plus, I felt it was my responsibility to help keep my brother’s legacy alive and try to take it to the next level where it deserves to be.
How would you describe the Detroit sound?
All of the music comes from the surroundings. If you’ve ever been to Detroit it’s like there’s a feeling there that influences all of the music that comes out of the city. It’s a hard thing to try and explain, but there’s a soulful sound in Detroit that comes from back in the Motown days, but then there’s also a hardness to what we do which comes from the environment people are living in today.
Do you have a particular approach to making beats?
For me, it just comes naturally. At the end of the day, I don’t like to force anything. If I have an idea I’ll work on it, but if I don’t have an idea on a particular day I won’t sit down and try to push something out. It just so happens that ideas do come to me a whole lot (laughs). I mean, I write songs all the time. I was at the Prince concert here in London last night and I wrote a song while I was sitting waiting for him to come onstage. Whenever an idea comes to me I’ll try and put it down right then because I like to let the creativity flow and let it be natural. I’m on the edge of so many different musical genres with what I do but it still has that hip-hop feel to it. The one thing that all great recording artists have in common is that whenever they put out a new album, you don’t know exactly what to expect, but you know it’s going to be something fresh and exciting. A true artist isn’t afraid to try new things. I mean, if you look at what my brother did, he reinvented his sound a number of times. The early music he made as Jay-Dee sounds different to what he did as Dilla, which sounds different to the Dill Withers stuff that came out on ‘Donuts’. That’s what music is about to me, just letting your creativity flow in whatever direction it wants to go in.
What prompted your decision to move from Detroit to Los Angeles and how has that influenced your creativity?
The first time I went to LA I was visiting my brother while he was out there and I loved the place from that point on. After Dilla passed I wanted to move out there because he’d lived out there and I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps. I think it was the right move for me to make and it really helped me deal with Dilla’s passing. Plus, I feel so much better out there than when I’m in Detroit. When I go back to Detroit, almost as soon as I land I can feel how stressful it is there. Also, there’s a lot going on in Detroit that distracts me from doing what I need to do. But in LA I feel totally free and that’s how I think my mindset should be as an artist; I should be able to let my mind float freely and let all the creative juices go to work. Plus, in LA people get things done, whereas in Detroit a lot of people talk about doing things but don’t ever actually do them. It seems there’s more of an aggressive mind state in LA, compared to Detroit which can sometimes have something of a lazy atmosphere.
Aside from your brother, who were your musical influences growing-up?
Well, as with Dilla, my musical influences really start with my mom and dad. They had a jazz acapella group and would always rehearse in our living room. That’s really how I got my musical ear from watching and listening to my parents. The first actual artist’s music I remember listening to was James Brown. After that, I’d say my other influences would be Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Zapp & Roger Troutman, Nirvana. I have very broad musical tastes, so it’s hard for me to name all of my musical influences. But as far as right now, I’m loving The White Stripes and Amy Winehouse. I listen to everything.
You’ve mentioned a lot of older artists there as influences which isn’t something that’s particularly common amongst younger artists today, particularly in hip-hop. Do you think it’s important to have an overall awareness of those musicians who’ve come before you?
Yeah, I definitely think that’s important. You should know the history of the music you’re getting into and where it came from. That can only help in what you do because it enables you to appreciate the music more.
As Dilla’s brother, do you think people will only expect a certain sound from you and do you feel pressured to conform to those expectations?
I feel comfortable putting out whatever I want to put out, with respect to what people expect from me as Dilla’s brother. I mean, my brother told me to just do me and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Whether other people like it or not, at the end of the day I have to like the music I put out otherwise there wouldn’t be any real purpose to it. It’s crucial for me to feel what I’m doing myself before I even let anyone else hear it. But when people ask me about comparisons to my brother I always tell them, there will only ever be one J Dilla, and when I come out it’ll be as myself, Illa J. If I was going to say anything about myself as an artist, it’s that I’m original. Everything that I do comes from the heart.
Are you getting a lot of support from those artists Dilla worked with himself?
It’s weird because although I do get respect for what I’m doing, the Detroit crowd still see me like ‘Ohh, it’s Dilla’s little brother’ (laughs). So in a way I’m looking at that as a challenge to come out and prove myself to them because I don’t think the Detroit crowd really get it yet (laughs). But the people I’ve already worked with definitely have respect for me as an artist first and foremost. At the end of the day, I don’t want to build my career just off of being Dilla’s brother. I want people to be able to look beyond that and see me as an artist.
If there was one album throughout history you could’ve been involved in as a producer what would it be?
It would have to be Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ album because every time I listen to it I can hear all the hard work they put into it, but at the same time you can tell they were having fun with the music as well. Like on ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Workin’ Day And Night’, they’re playing with glass bottles, shakers, anything they could get their hands on (laughs). That whole album has got such a good feeling to it and its energy is timeless.
If we were to sit down again in five years time, what one career goal would you want to have achieved?
Honestly, all those BET awards and everything are cool, but I want some Grammies on my shelf (laughs). I have such a strong passion for music and I want to share that with as many people as possible.