The First Time I Heard Dilla

Lil' Dilla.

Lil’ Dilla.

Happy Birthday James Dewitt Yancey.

Seeing how today is the anniversary of the birth of J Dilla, it’s only appropriate that I share my “first time I heard Dilla” story.

Detroit. 2000/2001. High School senior. Sunday afternoon at home chillin’ at home with the radio. At the time, Sunday radio in Detroit played church music, talk shows, regular radio and maybe some tracks that don’t get much radio play, not in that particular order. A song comes on the radio that I hadn’t heard before. The beat was different, yet interesting. Wasn’t enough to make me completely stop what I was doing, but definitely had my head bobbing. Towards the end of the song, I notice they began shouting out street names.

6 Mile! 7Mile! 8 Mile! Southfield! Royal Oak! Oak Park!

Immediately my ears perked up. “Are they shouting out Detroit?” Just then the DJ says “Detroit’s own Slum Village with ‘Raise It Up’”. I immediately went downstairs to the family computer, opened up Napster or Kazaa (I can’t remember which one) and downloaded the track. About 30 minutes later, I was listening to “Raise It Up”, excited that these were Detroiters. Then it happened. The 4:08 mark. The beat changed and I stopped. The beat was amazing. It was smooth. It was amazing.

I LOVE THIS TRACK.

I rewound those 8 seconds over and over again. I naturally assumed that it was part of the next song. So I found my way to Target (I think) and bought Fantastic Vol. 2. I immediately skipped to the end of Raise It Up to see if my wish for a full track would come true. It didn’t however I listened to the whole album and was hooked. These beats were different from what I was hearing on the radio. I read the liner notes and saw that some guy named Jay Dee produced the whole album. I hadn’t heard of this brotha, or so I thought, so I went to my favorite music source at the time Okayplayer and started looking around for any mention of him, come to find out this brotha had produced many a track that I had already heard and love. And he was from Detroit!!! It was destiny. I’ve been hooked ever since.

When was the first time you heard Dilla?

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