James Dewitt Yancey, better known by the stage name J Dilla, died in 2006 of lupus and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease that causes clots throughout the circulatory system. But during his short 32 years, J Dilla managed to become one of the most sought after producers in the music industry.
He produced dozens of original songs or remixes for Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Janet Jackson, and others. NPR’s obituary of J Dilla called him one of the music industry’s most influential hip-hop artists.
After his death, Dilla’s mother Ma Dukes began curating her son’s enormous collection of beats and song sketches, releasing mixtapes of his previously unheard musical compositions. Through the J Dilla Foundation, she is keeping her son’s legacy alive, while also enriching local Detroit-area music programs and awarding students with scholarships. Dilla’s latest posthumous release Motor City is a mostly instrumental beat tape of tracks chosen by Ma Dukes with some tracks used as the basis for remixes by Jay’s friend, J-Rocc.
Motor City, isn’t really a complete J Dilla album (for that you’ll want to try Donuts) but it is a fascinating inside look at the artistic process of one of the most important names in hip-hop history.