Amp Fiddler, Detroit Legend & J Dilla Mentor, Has Passed Away

This morning (December 18), the music world has learned that Detroit, Michigan music pioneer Amp Fiddler has died at the age of 65. The artist, musician, and producer born Joseph Anthony Fiddler is known for his years as a member of both Parliament and Funkadelic, a collaborator of Prince, as well as a crucial mentor to J Dilla and Slum Village. A cause of death has not been disclosed. However, Resident Advisor reports that Fiddler launched a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign in 2022 following a surgery to “support his continued healing as he journeys back to the stage” following an undisclosed illness. Several fundraising events took place this month in Michigan.

Fiddler made his break touring with Michigan R&B group Enchantment. By the mid-1980s, Amp was playing keys alongside George Clinton, and was welcomed to the fold of Uncle George’s solo releases as well as his famed bands that lasted over a decade. Amp also played with Warren Zevon, Was (Not Was), and Cheryl Lynn throughout the decade.

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In the 1990s, Amp worked on Prince’s Graffiti Bridge soundtrack, Seal’s eponymous LP, and Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite. He would embrace Hip-Hop, working with MC Breed, Too Short, and Souls Of Mischief. However, Amp’s greatest Hip-Hop contribution may be by way of Slum Village. In his basement studio, Fiddler taught J Dilla how to use the Akai MPC60 sampling drum machine, and mentored the would-be legend in the studio. Fiddler established mentorship for others. The Platinum Pied Pipers’ Wajeed is another product of what became known as “Camp Amp.” The environment was detailed extensively in Dan Charnas’ recent book, Dilla Time.

It was also Amp who passed the music of Dilla and Slum Village to Q-Tip. During Lollapalooza 1994, the P-Funk All-Stars member shared the music with the A Tribe Called Quest leader. That introduction ultimately led to the foundation of The Ummah, and a completely different sonic direction for Tribe’s next two releases. Additionally, Q-Tip would connect Dilla with The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Mad Skillz, and others for early production credits on established labels.

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Q-Tip and Amp appeared together in Hip Hop Evolution, where they discussed Dilla with host Shad:

In the 2000s, Amp maintained his collaborative relationship with Hieroglyphics, Dilla’s brother Illa J, Basement Jaxx, and others. His last album, 2021’s Basementality, featured Raphael Saadiq and Meshell Ndegeocello.

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Ambrosia For Heads expresses condolences to Slum Village, and the family, friends, and fans of Amp Fiddler.