Culture

Premiere: Watch DJ Rasta Root Breakdown the Story of Phife Dawg’s “Dear Dilla (Reprise)”

DJ Rasta Root, producer and longtime manager of the late Phife Dawg breaks down how he created the beat for “Dear Dilla (Reprise).”

Phife Dawg is forever. In a new Serato Studio feature, DJ Rasta Root, producer and former manager of Phife Dawg and A Tribe Called Quest, breaks down the making of “Dear Dilla (Reprise)” from Phife’s posthumous album Forever.

In the 13-minute video, Rasta Root, whose real name is Dion Liverpool, reflects on his early beginnings as an DJ in Atlanta, where he met Phife in 1998 at a performance in College Park. Following Phife’s untimely passing in March 2016 from complications of diabetes, Liverpool put the finishing touches on “Dear Dilla (Reprise),” accompanied with an appearance from Q-Tip who provided the hook.

In the video, Liverpool shared how “Dear Dilla (Reprise)” paid tribute to Dilla’s drum pattern while also remaining connected to Phife’s incomparable flow.

“I thought for the “Dear Dilla” beat, being that the song is about life – Phife’s life now and of course, at the time, J Dilla’s life – that the main rhythm of the drum would be a heartbeat,” Liverpool said. “But every once in awhile would have an occasional skip of a beat or not be as rhythmic and that would show you how inconsistent life is and how it’s kind of fickle in a way.”

Also joining the video was Manchester-based producer El Train, whose loop was sampled on “Dear Dilla (Reprise).”

In an interview with The New Yorker earlier this year, Liverpool revealed that Phife Dawg recorded his verses on track “Forever” three days before his death.

“That track is an open letter to his bandmates pretty much saying, If I had to do it all over again, I would have dealt with our problems differently,” Liverpool said.

Guest appearances on Forever include Busta Rhymes, Redman, Little Brother, Angela Winbush, Illa J, Dwele, Phife’s mother Cheryl Boyce-Taylor and more.

Liverpool teaches production on Serato Studio at Atlanta’s Emory University as a Professor of Hip Hop Composition.

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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