Pete Rock, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Pharoahe Monch & More Remember J. Dilla As He Enters The Smithsonian

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Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey recently sat down with The Huffington Post to discuss her son, the late J. Dilla, and his recent enshrinement into The Smithsonian alongside his signature beat making equipment.

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In it, the affectionately nicknamed Ma Dukes highlighted their musically inclined family, his early experiences with instruments, and the first time she and her husband heard their son on the radio.

“I was driving down the street, and a song came on the radio and I loved it so much. I started shouting “That’s Dilla! That’s Dilla!” My husband and I started blasting the song so loud that the people in the car next to us looked at us like, are they insane, these two old people blasting that Hip-Hop music. I know his signature sound within the first two bars.”

Despite her understanding of the trials and tribulations of becoming successful as an artist, even a talented one, by watching her husband struggle through it himself, Ma Dukes encouraged J. Dilla to chase his musical aspirations. The blessing that we all received from his pursuit is an extensive catalog of great Hip-Hop music, all derived from his beloved E-Mu SP-1200.

J. Dilla’s work continues to influence and captivate the lives of Hip-Hop Heads young and old, from the mainstream to the underground, and beyond. The preservation of his art at The Smithsonian is an undoubtedly just finish to a monumental career.

In addition to his mother, some of Hip-Hop’s greatest icons including Pete Rock, Apollo Brown, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Pharoahe Monch, his brother Illa J, and more weigh in with their own thoughts on his music, career, and the permanent residence of his equipment at the historical museum. Here are a few memorable quotes.

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”I’m so proud that my good friend is being recognized for his greatness. James ‘Dilla’ Yancey has not only influenced me but an unimaginable amount of music makers & music lovers with his genius. As much as I miss my friend I’m so happy that this music & legacy will live on in the Smithsonian!” – Jazzy Jeff

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“I am supremely happy and excited for my brother’s legacy and its continued success. It results from the great work ethic, heart and soul that he put into his craft. He was a true hip hop pioneer and made history by becoming one of the greatest record producers of all time. His music shall continue to inspire many generations to come.” – Illa J

Pete Rock

“I Loved J Dilla, when we met it felt like we’d known each other for years. We both admired each other’s work. I made sure that I had a bunch of beats to play him. He had a bunch of beats to play me too. We really enjoyed each other’s company.”

“I think him being enshrined into the Smithsonian as a national treasure: “It was a given… Because of his exceptional talent, it’s like when you’re as talented as he is good things happen and to me that’s well deserved. And it’s great for hip hop.” – Pete Rock


“As a huge fan of Dilla and someone who had the honor of working with him, I am incredibly proud and ecstatic that his genius is being honored. To have his legacy recognized by the Smithsonian assures that generations to come will be aware of his contribution to hip hop, music as a whole and American culture. This is incredible!” – Pharoahe Monch

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“I want young people to understand that no matter where you come from, you should always pursue your dreams.” – Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey

Related: Happy 40th Birthday to J. Dilla. To Celebrate Here’s J Rocc’s Mind-Blowing 120+ Song Set of Mixes (Audio)