By Nia Hightower, DC Music Live
More than 15 local artists joined jazz musician Robert Glasper and revered rappers from Detroit’s underground scene in paying tribute to late producer James DeWitt “J Dilla” Yancey on July 14 at The Fillmore in Silver Spring.
This marks the seventh year DC Loves Dilla has paid homage to the Detroit producer who died in 2006 from complications from lupus. A portion of proceeds from the show go toward the J Dilla Foundation and the Lupus Foundation DMV chapter.
“It’s as close to church or a spiritual rush as you will get at a hip-hop and soul concert,” says Munch Joseph of Hedrush Entertainment. “For people who follow music and the major influences, they know about J Dilla and what he meant to music and how his timely contributions shaped the sound of so many popular artists like Common, Erykah Badu and those to follow.”
Hedrush Entertainment produced the show that featured local artists representing the rap, soul and folk genres.
The Glasper Experience
Glasper, who’s Black Radio is on both the jazz and R&B/hip-hop charts, delivered an element of jazz to the show, playing De La Soul’s Dilla-produced “Stakes Is High” and “Doo Doo” off Dilla’s 2003 Vintage solo album.
Glasper, who will release his album of Black Radio remixes in September, said jazz belonged in the Dilla tribute just as much as any of the other genres.
“Jazz is the father of hip-hop. Early hip-hop was sampled from jazz records,” he said. “So, it’s all in the family. That’s like telling your cousin not to come to the family reunion.”
Glasper, his friend, soul singer Bilal and J Dilla worked on Bilal’s first album together.
The trio spent two weeks together hanging out and making beats for the album, and “Reminisce” wound up becoming a signature song from the project.
“The one thing I saw that just stamps the genius of [J Dilla] is when he made ‘Reminisce.’ We had just come from the club that night,” Glasper recalls. “It was like four in the morning. He pulled out these four records and made one bass line from chopping up the bass line on those four different albums.”
Glasper was in awe. “It was four in the morning,” he mentioned again, “and it took such a short amount of time, like 20 or 30 minutes at the most.”
Glasper paid tribute to the producer after his death on his own 2007 album In My Element by playing “Doo Doo” on keys in his “J Dillalude.”
Detroit Meets D.C.
Noted rappers – Frank Nitt, Guilty Simpson and group Slum Village, of which Dilla was an original member – took the stage with some Dilla hits and classics that resonated with the true Dilla fans in the Fillmore crowd.
Nitt, one half of rap duo Frank N Dank made popular by their appearance on Dilla’s 2001 Welcome 2 Detroit, performed five songs including “Pause,” “Pay Day” and “Love (A Thing of the Past).” Meanwhile, Simpson performed “I Must Love You,” “Clap Ya Hands,” “Baby,” and others from the Dilla catalogue.
Dilla gave Simpson his first album appearance with “Strapped,” released on 2003’s Champion Sound by Jaylib – a rap duo comprised of J Dilla and rapper Madlib.
Slum Village closed out the evening of performers with their hits such as “Tainted,” “Selfish” and “Get This Money.”
Dilla’s younger brother, Illa J, makes up the new incarnate of the group with rappers T3 and RJ. They released a mixtape earlier this year and are working on another album.
Music artists from the D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area gave some valiant performances of Dilla-produced hits by Common, Janet Jackson, Bilal and Busta Rhymes and more.
“You can tell a Dilla track from a thousand miles away,” says folk singer Terrence Cunningham, who performed “Reminisce” and “Funky for You” with emcee Wes Felton. “If it’s something warm, it’s the groove and the samples. It just has this authenticity to it.”
J Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey also made an appearance at the show. Munch said the tribute is definitely about keeping the late artist’s memory and legacy alive, but the tribute serves another purpose as well.
“This area needs a show like this to showcase amazing artists who care deeply about music, first and foremost, and its future,” he said. “J Dilla is the conduit.”
We know you want to know who’s in the slide show. So, here’s the rundown:
- Grap Luva hosts the evening’s show and styles in a variety of sneakers.
- Free serves on the Dilla tribute’s host committee with Robert Glasper.
- Far EXP starts out the performances with “Start It Up.”
- Local rapper Redhead performs as part of Far EXP.
- Fleetwood DeVille is also a part of the Far EXP supergroup.
- Javier Starks performs Busta Rhymes’ “Woo Ha.”
- He comes back out to perform “Payback is a Grandmother” and Common’s “The Light.”
- Incwell performs “Let’s Take It Back.”
- Baltimore rapper Tislam the Great performs “Get A Hold, Higher.”
- Baltimore represents again with Labtekwon performing “Stop.”
- Soul singer Deborah Bond opens up the showcase of female artists performing throughout the show with “Love” and “Bullshittin’.”
- Dennis Turner of Jon Laine and The Players performs a bass feature. Laine helped create the tribute and is the show’s music director.
- The audience looks on as female rapper Jay Mills spits rhymes over Dilla’s “African Rhythms.”
- She represents as one of the night’s two female emcees.
- Awthentik hypes the crowd with a little “Cold Steel.”
- Alison Carney performs background vocals as Jon Laine plays the drums.
- DJ 2-Tone Jones spins the ones and twos on songs throughout the show.
- Grammy-nominated songstress Carolyn Malachi sings Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone.”
- Wes Felton brings son Tobias on stage as he performs. Young Felton breaks it down b-boy style.
- Grammy-nominee Maimouna Youseff opens up the Like Water for Chocolate tribute with “Time Travelin’. ” She also had a move that a certain DC Music Live writer has been trying to replicate to no avail. Lessons, please?
- Terrence Cunningham sings Bilal’s “Reminisce,” which is featured at the opening of the slide show.
- Jon Laine and The Players continue to accompany the artists throughout the show.
- Yahzarah comes out singing Erykah Badu’s “Kiss Me On My Neck.”
- Toine from DTMD performs “Dooinit.”
- Detroit’s Frank Nitt performs “Take Dem Clothes Off,” which is the second song in the slide show.
- Guilty Simpson performs a medley of Dilla songs including “Clap Ya Hands,” “Make It Fast” and Stressed.
- John Laine and The Players’ winds and brass keep it classy during a number of performances.
- Robert Glasper shares stories and memories of Dilla before playing a few Dilla classics with the help of Jon Laine and The Players.
- Slum Village closes it out with several hits during the Dilla Era and beyond.