Next year will be the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest albums in J Dilla’s catalog: Welcome 2 Detroit. The album, which was his solo debut, was originally released on February 26, 2001. To celebrate the occasion, BBE, the label that released the album, will drop a special 20th Anniversary Box Set.
The box set will release on February 5th, 2021, just a couple of days before Dilla Day (which is on February 7tth).
The deluxe 7″ box set, which is 12 discs, will feature instrumentals, new interpretations by Azymuth and Muro, unreleased alternative mixes, and studio outtakes. The box set will also include a book revealing the making of the album, as told to the artists who were there, including Amp Fiddler and Ma Dukes. The book was written by British writer and filmmaker John Vanderpuije.
In a statement, Ma Dukes, Dilla’s mother, talked about the anniversary:
“I’m real happy that Welcome 2 Detroit was done by BBE… Because I don’t think another label would have helped him embrace his full creativity and given him the control to make it a piece of who he was! Because of BBE he was able to pour more of himself into it, into every bit of music on this album. His spirit lives in Welcome 2 Detroit. It’s him! Alive and thriving in every song!”
There’s a lot of history behind that album. Welcome 2 Detroit was the first time Jay Dee went by the name J Dilla (which was a name Busta Rhymes gave him.) The album featured verses from some of the most important artists underground rappers in the city at the time, including Beej, Big Tone, Elzhi, Frank N Dank, Phat Kat.
In a quote provided by BBE, J Dilla talked about the making of the album, saying:
“Peter (Adarkwah, founder of BBE) let me do whatever I wanted to do. So, I wanted to put people on there who are gonna spit y’know, lyrically and represent Detroit. Because I wouldn’t have been able to pull this album off if it came out under a major. Cos they’re not gonna let you just do a song or you can’t just do an instrumental. You gotta have this feature and you’re Jay Dee, why ain’t you got Erykah Badu? Why ain’t you got so and so on your album? I’d have had to go through all of that, instead of just putting out…y’know, Beej on this joint!”
Welcome 2 Detroit is a certified classic, largely inspired by Chocolate City, a famous Detroit strip club that isn’t around anymore. Chocolate City, which we wrote about earlier in the year, played an important role in the making of Welcome 2 Detroit — even down to the album’s cover art. According to Dank (of Frank N Dank) the strip club was important for Dilla.
“Dilla liked to go to the strip club seven days a week. Seriously, it’s not a game. Chocolate City. The energy. We did the Welcome 2 Detroit album in there,” Dank said. “After we left there and had a good time, we would go straight to the studio. He would immediately put his headphones on and ask ‘Yo Frank, Dank, y’all got some shit?’ Then he would take the headphones off and click the sub button to turn the music on. We would be like ‘goddamn’ and bang out to the morning.”
Head here to preorder the album.
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