James Dewitt Yancey, better known as producer J Dilla, would have turned 43 yesterday. But Dilla died 11 years ago, on February, 10, 2006, just a few days after he celebrated his birthday and released his magnum opus, Donuts. The boisterous, sample-based album was far from Dilla’s last release, and not a year has gone by without another posthumous Dilla EP or full-length—most consist of unreleased material, but none have escaped Donuts‘ shadow. His influence continues to make itself felt all over the world of hip-hop, including in a bevy of Chicago producers who continue to take inspiration from him. I spoke with some local beat makers when Stones Throw prepared a seven-inch box-set reissue of Donuts in 2012, though I wish I’d gotten in touch with Thelonious Martin back then. He became enamored with Dilla while watching Cartoon Network’s late-night programming Adult Swim, because it regularly plays Dilla’s music in the minute-long breaks between shows, which usually feature irreverent title cards. Yesterday Thelonious Martin released A Dozen for Dilla, a collection of short instrumentals to celebrate his hero’s life. I’m particularly taken by the slack swing of the drums and the watery guitar sample on “Brasil Chop.”
Friday night, Thelonious Martin honors Dilla as part of a tribute show helmed by funk band Perse as Funk; Illa J and Harris Cole also perform. Tickets are $15, $10 in advance, and all proceeds go to the James Dewitt Yancey Foundation. It kicks off at 9 PM at 19 East.