Dilla-ography: Phife + House Shoes Speak On How Much Of J Dilla's Discography Is Still Unheard
J Dilla on drums, Soulquarian session ca. 2002
Today, February 10th, 2016, is that other Dilla Day. Today we mark the 10th Anniversary of J Dilla‘s passing, the unique talent known as James Dewitt Yancey having stutter-stepped off this mortal coil just a few days after his 32nd birthday in 2006. Like many Okayplayers and other music fans, we spent the day (and the week, and the month) listening to J Dilla beats, analyzing the drum break on Phife Dawg‘s “Ben Dova”; poking holes in the sample credit info for the Slum Village remix of Keith Murray‘s “The Rhyme” and arguing about which was his best remix (Spacek‘s “Eve” featuring Frank ‘n Dank) or rap verse. (“F**k The Police.” Just saying.).
We count ourselves lucky that some of the people we have the opportunity to build with include the DJs, impresarios and artists who in many cases were privileged to be there on the tour bus or in the studio when said beats were born, carriers of the torch and official-unofficial Dilla archivists. We love to hear the stories (again and again) but on this particular day, we had a more pointed question for these Dillapostles, namely:
10 Years Later, How Much Of J Dilla‘s Discography Is Left Unheard?
The word from the little bird is that DJ House Shoes is still “sitting on about 60 joints.” We know countless artists received beat tapes and CDs with snippets during Dilla’s lifetime and more were found in the record collection discovered in an unclaimed storage locker a few years ago and subsequently handed over to Ma Dukes and the Dilla Foundation. The recent release of Dillatronic and other posthumous projects begs the question: have we hit bottom? Is this just the tip of the iceberg? How much more is there? We reached out to House Shoes himself as well as the immortal Mutty Ranks AKA Phife of A Tribe Called Quest to ask that very question. Though no one person maybe speak on it conclusively, their answers might surprise you–including details on two forthcoming J Dilla projects coming in the near future. Read below:
Okayplayer: 10 years after his passing, how much J Dilla material do think is left?
Phife Dawg: As far as work that you haven’t heard? I really have no idea, to be honest. But I will say he was the Tupac of producers, if you will. And with Tupac, we all know he stayed in the studio and that was the same thing with Dilla. I cant imagine what else is left…but I’m sure there’s a lot that hasn’t been put out yet.
House Shoes: I mean there’s a lot of music. There’s a lot of music…I don’t know if anybody should hear it, though. His value has definitely lessened since he left, due to…I mean, his catalogue of music that he had full reins over is some of the most incredible shit you ever heard in your life. But all this other shit? Nah, bro. If he ain’t here to make the decision, it’s kinda been broken. All the cats that really loved and cherished and respect and honor his music–before Donuts, before it turned into a freakshow, circus, you know what I mean—most of us don’t even. I was talking to somebody yesterday, who is one of the biggest Dilla fans I’ve ever met in my life, and he doesn’t even listen to it anymore. It just makes him sad.
OKP: Does that change at a certain point? When we start wanting to preserve everything–unfinished beats, sketches, ideas–for history’s sake?
HS: I mean, he was so fucking serious about the sonic quality of his music—he was selling beats for five figures to major record labels and only giving them a left and right stereo 2-track–which is fucking unheard of in the industry! You don’t get paid for a 2-track, you need to send that session over. Or you need to send them reels over, nahmean? Over the years so many engineers fucking destroyed the mixes that at a certain point he was like, Nah. You want the beat you get a 2-track. I’m not gonna fly out to the studio and fucking mix that shit none of that shit. You can get the fuckin’ 2-track shit and done. All this cassette shit, though—its cool that y’all found that shit. Everything does not need to be monetized. It’s just way over.
OKP: Wouldn’t you want a museum or archive to someday be able to document his full body of work, though?