J Dilla is undoubtedly one of the most important producers in hip-hop history, so much so that his legacy lives on in the National Museum of African American History and Culture where his Akai MPC 3000 is on display. Now, Vox has released a mini documentary that unpacks Dilla’s production style and how he redefined producing while exploring the capabilities of his MPC.
As a part of Vox’s Earworm music documentary series, the 10-minute video on Dilla first begins with how the producer lauded the MPC’s quantization features, which allowed users to format sounds into perfectly uniform beat patterns and loops.
“The MPC was a different beast because it really put you in the driver’s seat in terms of the sonic texture that you want it to have,” Brian “Raydar” Ellis, and MC, producer, and professor at Berklee College of Music, says in the video. “I think Dilla was just super funky. A lot of that had to do with him being willing to not care if the record speeds up or slows down as long as it feels good. Forget quantize man, it does what I say it does.”
From there the video highlights how Dilla manipulated samples that served as the foundation for a number of songs he produced, ranging from Gap Mangione‘s “Diana in the Autumn Wind” for Slum Village‘s “Fall In Love” to Giorgio Moroder’s “E=MC²” for Dilla’s own rendition of the track.
“He used his MPC like Jimi Hendrix played guitar or John Coltrane played the saxophone. It was an extension of himself,” Vox’s Estelle Caswell says. “That’s probably why out of all the MPCs used by countless hip hop producers and beat makers over the years, J Dilla’s is in a museum.”