J. Dilla’s life story was told like never before

February is widely celebrated among Hip-Hop Heads as a month dedicated to J Dilla. James Yancey was born on February 7, 1974 and died just after his 32nd birthday on February 10. Traditionally, there are concerts and events around the world honoring the producer/MC who co-founded Slum Village, JayLib, J-88, The Ummah, and the Soulquarians. However, in 2022, fans have a definitive biography — several years in the works — on a hip-hop legend who has often kept a low profile. Dan Charnas’ Dilla’s hour was released this week, and the full text sheds new light on James Yancey, his upbringing, his career, and his impact as a true rhythm revolutionary.

In episode #74 of What is the title podcast, the Ambrosia for the heads the team discusses the book (at 51:40), having an early read. Several highlights are discussed that come straight out of Dan Charnas’ research and reporting. Although Slum Village rose to power in the early 2000s, the band’s days in the early 1990s are alluded to. At this time, the band had ties to Detroit Pistons star John Stalley, who reportedly insisted on the team’s recording contract. Salley had started Hoops, a Detroit-based recording studio and fledgling record and production label.

An Unreleased Gem From J. Dilla & Phat Kat Makes Its World Premiere (Audio)

Charnas writes:John Salley used his stardom and RJ Rice used his industry connections to pitch the Slum Village demo to New York record labels. Salley met with executives from Def Jam, Atlantic and MCA, touting James [Yancey] as “the next Pete Rock”. Within months, Slum was offered a contract by a new label, Pendulum, funded by Warner Music. When negotiating, John Salley asked Rice to stand down. “Leave it to me,” he said. “No one will underestimate me.” But Pendulum’s offer for the band came in too low for John Salley, and nothing he said could get him any higher. Salley didn’t just want to give Slum Village away, so he balked, and Pendulum ended up signing another offbeat rap group, Digable Planets. RJ broke the bad news to James and T3. They were furious with Salley for rejecting the offer without consulting them, but now the whole Hoops situation was bad news.

This chain of events may have changed the history of hip-hop. In 1993, the Digable trio composed of Ladybug Mecca, Butterfly and Doodlebug will release their first album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space). This LP would earn Pendulum a gold plaque and a Top 15 chart position. Meanwhile, Slum would have to wait for Y2K to deliver a nationally distributed album, Fantastic, Vol. 2.

T3 revisits the creation of Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 (Interview)

This, and a few other highlights involving The Pharcyde, Q-Tip, and Skillz are discussed in honor of Dan Charnas Dilla’s hour.

An Unreleased Gem From J. Dilla & Phat Kat Makes Its World Premiere (Audio)

The timecodes of episode #74 of the What is the title Podcast:

0:00 Intro
1:20 “Johnny P’s Caddy” by Benny The Butcher, featuring J. Cole, is a special moment for hip-hop
5:19 The meaning of “Johnny P’s Caddy”
6:55 J. Cole used verses to prove he’s “the best living rapper
9:40 Who had the best verse on “Johnny P’s Caddy” between Benny The Butcher and J. Cole?
10:07 AM Is J. Cole undefeated in his appearances as a featured MC on other rappers’ records?
12:08 Reviewing J. Cole’s best verses:
12:45 “Boblo Boat” by Royce 5’9 with J. Cole
2:30 p.m. “OSOM” by Jay Rock with J. Cole
16:56 “Sojourner” by Rapsody with J. Cole
20:00 “Say Na” by Moneybagg Yo with J. Cole
23:10 “a lot” of 21 Savage with J. Cole
27:20 “Prove It” by Big KRIT with J. Cole
30:37 “Family And Loyalty” by Gang Starr with J. Cole
31:37 “Johnny P’s Caddy” by Benny The Butcher featuring J. Cole
35:04 What is J. Cole’s best verse?
36:13 Which rappers are the best in guest verses?
40:55 The only MC who outright beat J. Cole on a song is…
43:53 Rap lyrics are used as evidence in criminal trials
51:40 Dan Charnas wrote the definitive biography of J. Dilla with Dilla’s hour
59:40 Benny The Butcher comes out Tana talk 4produced by Alchemist and Daringer
1:00:24 Kanye West exits 2executive produced by Future
1:02:15 Kendrick Lamar is releasing a new song in the next two weeks
1:03:05 Is Snoop Dogg back on Death Row Records?
1:11:20 New and exciting music from Big KRIT, Cypress Hill and Cormega
1:15:55 New music of the week from King Iso, Fly Anakin, Che Noir, AZ and Mach-Hommy, plus Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim

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#BonusBeat: A Dilla’s hour trailer:

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