Here’s How J Dilla Hid Beats from Artists on His Own Tapes
According to a longtime friend and collaborator, the late producer was stashing instrumentals for himself in plain sight.
Detroit’s own, Frank Nitt, joined Pete Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds on the latest episode of Juan Ep is Dead to relay some of the innovations he witnessed as the right-hand man of J Dilla.
Nitt, a childhood friend of the late producer who grew to frequently collaborate with him, offered some new insight on Dilla’s development from MC Silk to Jon Doe to Jay Dee and his final (and most ubiquitous) form. Tracing his ties with Dilla back to middle school, Nitt recalls a time before Dilla even made beats. “At that time we were all breakers,” Nitt reminiscing how they bonded first as dancers in the mid-to-late-80s. Nitt goes on to marvel at Dilla’s aptitude for making pause tapes, an early and fairly imprecise method of sampling that utilized a dual-cassette deck to loop, record, and overdub sections of songs. In Dilla’s case, Nitt recounts how the producer modified a tape deck to expose the idler wheels, allowing him to slow and quicken the material he was sampling.
Later in the interview, after running through how Amp Fiddler connected the producer with Q-Tip and effectively launched his above-ground career, Nitt describes a fully-realized Dilla at the peak of his demand needing to stash beats on his own tapes to hide them from the artists he worked with. “He would have, say, a 90-minute Maxwell tape. And if it ain’t for nobody and it’s for him, it’d be blank in the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes and his beats would be in the middle of the tape cause he didn’t want people to be able to find them” Nitt says, describing how even he’d occasionally get duped by this trick.
You can hear Frank Nitt pay tribute to J Dilla on the latest episode of Juan Ep is Dead below.