J. Dilla’s Life Story Has Been Told Like Never Before

February is widely celebrated among Hip-Hop Heads as a month dedicated to J Dilla. James Yancey was born February 7, 1974, and passed just after his 32nd birthday on February 10. Traditionally, there are concerts and events around the globe 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 making—on a Hip-Hop legend who often kept a low profile. Dan Charnas’ Dilla Time was published this week, and the comprehensive text sheds new light on James Yancey, his upbringing, his career, and his impact as a true revolutionary of rhythm.

On episode #74 of the What’s The Headline podcast, the Ambrosia For Heads 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 would rise to power in the early 2000s, the group’s days in the early 1990s are discussed. In those days, the group had ties to then-Detroit Pistons star John Stalley, who allegedly insisted on  the crew’s record deal. Salley had launched Hoops, a Detroit-based recording studio and fledgling label and production company.

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

Charnas writes: “John Salley used his celebrity and R.J. Rice used his industry connections to bring the Slum Village demo to record companies in New York. Salley met with executives at Def Jam, Atlantic, and MCA, touting James [Yancey] as ‘the next Pete Rock.’ Within a few months Slum was offered a deal by a new label, Pendulum, funded by Warner Music. When it came time to negotiate, John Salley asked Rice to step aside. ‘Let me do it,’ he said. ‘Nobody will lowball me.’ But Pendulum’s offer for the group did come in too low for John Salley, and nothing he said could get it any higher. Salley didn’t want to just give Slum Village away, so he balked, and Pendulum ended up signing another offbeat Rap group, Digable Planets. R.J. delivered the bad news to James and T3. They were furious with Salley for rejecting the offer without consulting them, but by now the whole Hoops situation was bad news.

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

T3 Revisits Making Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 (Interview)

This, and some other highlights involving The Pharcyde, Q-Tip, and Skillz are discussed in celebration of Dan Charnas’ Dilla Time.

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

The time codes for episode #74 of the What’s The Headline podcast:

0:00 Intro
1:20 Benny The Butcher’s “Johnny P’s Caddy,” featuring J. Cole, is a special moment for Hip-Hop
5:19 The meaning of “Johnny P’s Caddy”
6:55 J. Cole has been using feature verses to prove he is “the best rapper alive
9:40 Who had the better verse on “Johnny P’s Caddy” between Benny The Butcher and J. Cole?
10:07 Is J. Cole undefeated in his appearances as a featured MC on other rappers’ records?
12:08 Reviewing J. Cole’s best feature verses:
12:45 Royce 5’9’s “Boblo Boat” featuring J. Cole
14:30 Jay Rock’s “OSOM” featuring J. Cole
16:56 Rapsody’s “Sojourner” featuring J. Cole
20:00 Moneybagg Yo’s “Say Na” featuring J. Cole
23:10 21 Savage’s “a lot” featuring J. Cole
27:20 Big K.R.I.T.’s “Prove It” featuring J. Cole
30:37 Gang Starr’s “Family And Loyalty” featuring J. Cole
31:37 Benny The Butcher’s “Johnny P’s Caddy” featuring J. Cole
35:04 What is J. Cole’s best feature verse?
36:13 Which rappers are the best at guest verses?
40:55 The one MC who squarely defeated J. Cole on a song is…
43:53 Rap lyrics are being used as evidence in criminal trials
51:40 Dan Charnas has written the definitive biography on J. Dilla with Dilla Time
59:40 Benny The Butcher is releasing Tana Talk 4, produced by Alchemist and Daringer
1:00:24 Kanye West is releasing Donda 2, executive 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 coming from Big K.R.I.T., 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

Common & Questlove Share Stories About Bargaining For Beats From J Dilla & D’Angelo

#BonusBeat: A Dilla Time trailer:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dan Charnas (@dcharnas)