They Reminisce Over You: J-Dilla

JLBarrow • February 07, 2009 • 3 Comments


A lot of people are going to tell you stories about what they were doing the day J-Dilla died. For some of you who used to read Scratch you’ve heard me tell this story, but I’ll tell it again for those who hadn’t.

It was February 10th 2006 and I was on the phone with ?uestlove of The Roots finalizing their cover. A few months prior, around October of ’05,  I had gone to the Mixshow Power Summit and heard an early version of Busta Rhymes’ The Big Bang album and the Dilla produced track “Can’t Carry The Torch” just blew me away. I got the idea in my head then to do a cover with Dilla, Tip and Busta, which would satisfy both the core constituents and my bosses at Harris who wanted to include rappers on the cover to try and sell more issues. I figured since Tip was a bonafied producer and Busta dabbled here and there it could work, but Dilla was the anchor, he was THE producer and the person I really wanted. I’d made a few attempts to get at him since I’d taken the job but with little success. Finally we were able to get him on the phone in November and my man Alvin “Aqua Boogie” Blanco  knocked out what would become his last interview.

Aqua didn’t get a whole lot of time with Dilla the first time out so we didn’t publish it right away. A few months passed and we made more attempts for a follow-up interview, but no luck.  Finally the top of the year was coming and as anyone who works in magazines knows, very little product comes out to promote. Ghostface was dropping Fishscale with the Pete Rock produced “Be Easy” on there so I made my first attempt at getting Pete Rock his cover (that’s how my mind thought. I had a list of producers I wanted to get their covers and looked for opportunities to pair them up with somebody to satisfy “the building.”) Unfortunately, we had just done a RZA cover and my boss thought it was too soon to go back into the Wutang well. So we were kind of stuck.

Then I got the idea that since everyone was buzzing about The Roots signing to Def Jam that I’d go early and put them on the cover. Lord knows they deserved a magazine cover and that ?uest talking about making beats would be a great read. So after going through their management we just had to confirm the details.

I got on the phone with ?uest  to kind of do pre-game interview, figure out where he wanted to go with the story and out of the blue he asked me if we had interviewed Dilla yet. I told him about the story we had banked and he asked if he could interview Dilla for the next issue. Who knows what to ask Dilla about making beats more than ?uest?  We agreed to make it happen for the following issue and then the call got dropped.  Just when I went to call him back I was hit with a flood of IMs asking me if I’d heard about Dilla passing. When I called ?uestback the line was busy, but I finally got through to his manager Rich Nichols, who confirmed the grave news.

Everyone on the Scratch staff was a big fan of Dilla and understood how important he was to not just hip-hop production, but just music in general. We started gathering quotes from anyone that knew him and I spoke with Mrs. Yancey personally to not just get an interview, but her blessing for the tribute cover we were doing with The Roots. She was thrilled at the idea and gave me a great interview. Along with Aqua’s interview ?uest gave us his personal eulogy of Dilla (“Motown Philly 1Nce Again”) that stands as one of the best pieces of writing about Dilla that I’ve ever read.

So for Nodfactor’s first Dilla tribute, I’ve collected not only videos from around the web, but we’ll be publishing Aqua’s original transcript, and links to a few Dilla related mixtapes I’ve come across.

J-Dilla On Madlib

Inside Dilla’s Studio

Stonesthrow Remembers J-Dilla, Part 1

J-Dilla Interviews Part, 2 “Ruff Draft”

Part 3, Illa J, Karriem Riggins, Rhettmatic & Ma Dukes

Part 4, “The Dilla Shirt”

Part 6 “The D” w/Peanut Butter Wolf & House Shoes “We smoked 46 blunts…” (dunno where Part 5 is)

From Frank N Dank…



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