Common DC Loves Dilla
Photo by Victoria Ford/Sneakshot for Okayplayer

DC Loves Dilla 10: A Revival And Celebration Of His Beats, Rhymes & Life [Exclusive Recap + Photos]

Folks throughout the DMV turned out en masse to honor the life, music and legacy of J Dilla at DC Loves Dilla 10, last Friday at Washington D.C.’s historic Howard Theatre (courtesy of HedRush/ D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities/Pulse DC). Proceeds from the event go to the J Dilla Foundation.

“10 years, I’m blessed to be here, trust me,” said longtime Grap Luva DC Loves Dilla host Grap-Luva, who initially served as a performer at this event. Luva called for an opening moment of silence to remember those who passed recently, including, Percy Sledge, Andre Crouch, Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, and of course to reflect on the loss of one James Dewitt Yancey.

Then came the time to raise it up for Dilla-Dog. Jon Laine's aptly-named “Players” served as the house band for this year’s roster of featured artists, and with an opening mash-up of "Find A Way," "Fantastic Vol. 2," "Workinonit" and "Conant Gardens," the group set the reverent, funky tone early.

Things proceeded with Baltimore artist Tislam’s version of Q-Tip’s “Let’s Ride" before Wayna took the stage to emote Erykah Badu's “Didn’t Cha’ Know?”

Things kept moving, and the heads kept nodding. Ra the MC lit the fuse on the Roots’ “Dynamite!” and then gave up some verbal dap on the Black-Thought side with powerful, commanding delivery. Minutes later Wes Felton rocked “Breathe & Stop” then later cleverly flipped the hook to “I Can’t Breathe… & Stop, for real!” Muhsinah and the incomparable J Davey followed with more creative performance tributes that included “Nothing Like This.” Through it all, Laine's Players showed their artistic dexterity in recreating these Dilla soundscapes. They were, in a word, Fantastic.

Things only rocked harder when Georgia Anne Muldrow came out to a roaring crowd, which time she kindly threw “Roses” back at them.

A momentary calm swept over the room as Grap-Luva introduced Slum Village with a story. The night's host shared memories of riding through Detroit in Dilla's own Lexus listening to early SV beats that had come fresh out of the studio before T3 and RJ, came out to raucous cheers and genuine love, and as if on cue they launched straight into a two-course appetizer; “Fall in Love” followed up with “I Don’t’ Know” before sliding into a smoothed-out version of “Players,” followed by the urban anthem “Get Dis Money” and the sentimental “Won’t Do.”

SV continued to segue back and forth between Fantastic Volumes 1 & 2 with a revisit of “The Look of Love," and even took the time to let the police know what they thought of them.

But there was still one last thing for T3 and RJ to do. As the first notes of “Raise it Up” seeped into the Howard Theatre’s airspace the crowd’s energy level reached a resounding crescendo. Slum and Grap jumped for sheer joy and soon the crowd was jumping. Sheer pandemonium.

A surprise appearance by Philly's own Musiq Soulchild brought familiar cuts including "Stakes is High," before the night's headliner finally took command of it all.

Common has found forever in the cluster of classics he and Jay Dee have conjured up. (He eloquently and candidly talks up much of his and Dilla’s history and friendship on the cut “Rewind That” on his recent Nobody’s Smiling project.)

The Chicago son came out with purpose and set the tone immediately with a high powered delivery of “Get Up” from Dilla’s Da Shinin’ project, then brought Maimouna Yousseff and J Hill perform an interlude built on the Marvin Gaye cut “God is Love” before transitioning into “Love Is.” Common giving love to both Marvin and Dilla in the same minute was, truly, two birds with one Stones Throw!

Through freestyles, classic Dilla cuts like "So Far To Go," and finally "Thelonious," (which brought T3 and RJ back onto the stage), Common proved to be a consummate performer and in every way the right man to lead a tribute to hip-hop's fallen hero.

DC Loves Dilla is more than a tribute, and DC Loves Dilla 10 was more like a revival of the soul, spirit and essence that is Dilla. This was momentous occasion that folk in D.C. were thrilled to bask and revel in, excited that some semblance of authenticity and creativity remains evident and relevant in hip-hop and in music in general.