Tag Archives: J Dilla


14KT – Nowalataz (Instrumental LP)


This is relatively old news, but I completely missed the boat on it when it first came out, and it’s dope, so I’m posting it anyways.

14KT is a producer from Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Apparently, the beats on Nowalataz were made as a sort of tribute to Dilla.  Here’s 14KT describing it in his own words:

“Here it is… a project I unofficially had done since 2006. It started when James Yancey a.k.a. J Dilla passed that February. To cope with the death of my favorite producer, who I liked to call my unofficial “musical mentor,” I started making ‘donuts’ …uncontrollably. I never planned to release any of the material out of respect for Dilla & his craft. I’ve shared some of the music with others, in which they would repeatedly ask me to hear it, so I decided to put a little something together and make it official. JUST FOR YA’LL.This is a collection of beats created about 3 years ago. Some ‘donuts’ style, some just around that era of 14KT beats. “Now & Laters” were always a favorite candy of mine. I used to go to Mindell’s Pharmacy in Ypsilanti back in the day and buy ALL of them. Sadly, I even stole change from my grandma’s (RIP) purse for them. They are addictive, yet fun to eat… something I found mutual when making music at the time. Ironically, I fell back in love with “Nowalataz” around this era (ask my homey Sarah “Merk Merk,” haha). Enjoy.“

As you might’ve guessed, Nowalataz has a distinctly Dilla vibe to it.  Chock full of well-chopped soul samples and hard hitting drums, this LP is a regular slice of Detroit boom-bap goodness.

Download it here: 14KT – Nowalataz

Image credit: 2dopeboyz


Electric Wire Hustle, J Dilla music video and more

Electric Wire Hustle is an “electronic/organic trio” from New Zealand who’ve been getting mad love from across the ol’ blogosphere.  I honestly don’t know a lot about them, but this track, called ‘Perception,’ definitely got my attention.  Based on a sample from “Inside my Love” by Minnie Riperton (a joint that was best flipped, in my opinion, by Tribe on ‘Lyrics to Go‘), the track has a nice mellow vibe to it:

Also making the internet rounds is a new music video for the J Dilla track ‘On Stilts.’ From his posthumous album ‘Jay Stay Paid,’ the video has a surreal, cartoonish feel that I’m really digging.

Finally, on a bit of an older tip, here’s two videos of producer Kev Brown cookin’ up a hot beat. If you’re not into beat-making they may not appeal to you, but I’d say give ’em a shot, if only to get a glimpse into the incredible creativity that goes into producing a dope beat:

Courtesy of Fresh Selects.


More tributes to the King of Pop

The King Michael Jackson’s passing has inspired countless tributes from, it seems, every corner of the pop culture landscape.  A testament to both his transcendent artistic influence and his catalog’s massive revenue-generating potential, the man has to date been remembered (slash exploited) on film, television, in print and, of course, by a variety of professional and amateur musicians.

Two of the better tributes I’ve heard have come via Metal Lungies (yeah, Google Reader!).  The first, by the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, is a comprehensive mix of MJ’s “greatest moments,” including some tasty but lesser-known remixes of “Human Nature,” “Man in the Mirror” and “I’ll Be There.”  Called He’s The King, I’m The DJ, the mix is definitely worth a download.

The second tribute, courtesy of Beat Junkies DJ J-Rocc, is actually a sneak preview of a project called Share My Bed (seriously!).  An expert fusion of a Jackson a capella and a Dilla beat, the track, “Player Has Butterflies,” actually succeeds as a tribute to both men, reinforcing Dilla’s obvious talent and Jackson’s stunning vocal control, range and unique delivery.  Check it out below:


J. Sands giving you a free mixtape

Sites all over the internet have been going crazy for this new mixtape.  Okay, definitely not new, since it came out back in Feb of 2007.  But somehow I, and many others, slept on this. 

J. Sands of Lone Catalysts fame decided to lay down a bunch of tracks over some Dilla beats.  The mixtape, entitled Mrs. Sands.

You can stream some of the tracks off Sands’ MySpace if you want a taste.  Not bad, check out the track “Love feat. Rashad“.  It’ll give you a good idea of what the album will sound like.

Grab it here. Or here.

[Source: MySpace]


100% Pure Poison: St. Germain, Pete Rock & J Dilla

In the early 1970s, nine American servicemen stationed in Germany formed a soul band.  They called themselves 100% Pure Poison (it was the seventies, after all). After sneaking in to a music industry conference and snagging a deal with British EMI, they released their first and only album, Coming Right At You.  According to All Music Guide, the album features vocal interplay “recalling the Temptations” and “a jazzy instrumental sophistication equal to the Blackbyrds.”  

While I can’t vouch for the whole thing, one track on Coming Right At You has found its way into the catalogue of three of my favourite artists – French acid-jazz producer St. Germain and  hip-hop legends and beat-makers extraordinaire Pete Rock and J Dilla.  All three have sampled the opening few bars of “Windy C,” the album’s sixth track, to great effect.  Lasting only about 10 seconds (from 0:11 to 0:21), the four bar sequence has a mellow, jazzy, slightly-uptempo groove to it that seems perfect for sampling.  Have a listen below (Youtube was the best I could do):

It’s dope, right?  Unfortunately, the opening bars are littered with the kind of clutter that drives beat makers absolutely nuts – ambient traffic sounds at the start of the loop and vocals at the end of it.  One way to get around this without resorting to intense chopping is to filter the sample like crazy.  In other words, instead of identifying, extracting and then reassembling the usable bits of the loop (a time-consuming process), you simply apply a ludicrous number of filters and effects, thereby highlighting the general theme of the sample while obliterating any nuance or variation (i.e. the extraneous noise).

This is apparently how Pete Rock approached the sample, which he used as the backbone for his beat “Get Involved” off the Petestrumentals record.  The first thing you’ll notice is the stark difference in audio quality between the Pete Rock beat and the original, largely a result of the heavy filtration that gives the beat its distinct ‘wah wah‘ sound.  Although present in “Windy C,” Pete Rock’s knob-fiddling has really drawn it out in the beat.

However, that’s not to say he hasn’t done any chopping.  In the opening eight bars or so, you can clearly hear the traffic noise at the beginning of the loop.  Why he left it in is beyond me, but I suppose it adds that element of subtle fluctuation which prevents a beat from sounding too monotonous.  Also, listen for the vocal sample starting at 4:19 – you’ll know why in a minute.  Anyways, check it out:

Pete Rock – Get Involved (Petestrumentals, 2005) 

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St. Germain’s take on “Windy C” is similar.  He’s clearly run the sample through some filters, although it’s not as obvious as on “Get Involved.”  Perhaps the biggest difference is that whereas Pete Rock uses the sample as the focus of his beat, adding the occasional scratch here and there, St. Germain relegates it to the background of “Sure Thing”.  Emphasized at the beginning of the track to set the mood, the loop is gradually submerged beneath a wave of other samples – the melancholic blues lament (‘you’re the pretty, pretty, pretty’ (?)) also used by Pete Rock (see above), and the increasingly frenetic guitar solo.  

Although to be fair, this seems to be how most house music is constructed, so I suppose I shouldn’t read too deeply into it.  Get your listen on below:

Finally, the Dilla version, a track called “Lucy” from his posthumously-released Jay Love Japan album.  One of the reasons dude was such a genius is because he did what other people never even considered doing.  In this instance, instead of avoiding the vocals at the end of the loop, Dilla incorporated them into his beat.  He also went the hard route and chopped it up like crazy, replacing segments of the loop with other samples from later on in the original song.  To hear what I mean, listen to the 0:27 mark for the drum roll and the vocal sample at the end of the intro loop, and starting at about 1:17 listen for the short flute stabs and the band members talking.  Shit is absolutely nuts!  

J Dilla – Lucy feat. Bo Bo Lamb (Jay Love Japan, 2007)

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Album cover image yanked from: http://991.com/newgallery//100-Pure-Poison-Coming-Right-At-Y-328421.jpg


Dilla’s estate is suffering because of piracy

Our boy J Dilla has some major posthumous issues.  He was never a very rich man (he actually ended up crazily in debt since he had huge health care bills) and the small amount of royalties flowing in are decreasing all the time thanks to rampant piracy and biting of dope Dilla beats.  His estate is still trying to pay off all his debt.

Apparently Dilla didn’t even get credit for a lot of his dope beats for fairly major artists.  On his biggest it (Janet Jackson’s “Got til its gone”) was “mistakenly” credited to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  That’s just absurd.

Even worse, people are just using his name for whatever they want.  People invented a “Dilla Foundation” that was trying to hold events and claimed they were authorized.  Dilla’s estate is trying to launch some lawsuits, but are so strapped that his lawyers are now working for free.

Read more about it here.

[Source: LA Weekly]

Album Reviews Music

Slum Village – Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 (1997)

It’s been a minute since we’ve posted any music on 4080, so I figured it was time to upload some auditory dopeness. And Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 fits that bill perfectly.

Recorded in 1996 and 1997, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 is Slum Village’s debut album. Produced by J Dilla and recorded entirely in his home studio, the album was leaked as a bootleg in 1997. It became an instant classic among underground heads in Detroit and, later, across the world. In fact, according to Wikipedia, at one point copies of Fan-Tas-Tic were fetching $50 apiece. Still, despite its popularily, the album wasn’t officially released until 2005.

Musically, the album is notable for several reasons. First, most of its 25 songs are no more than a minute or two long, perhaps because Fan-Tas-Tic was intended to be a demo. Second, J Dilla’s consistent use of heavily filtered jazz and soul samples and intricate bass lines (seriously – every beat is dope, but they start to blend together after a while) was unique at the time, meaning the album sounds unike most mid- to late-’90s hip-hop. Third, T3 and Baatin – the group’s two mcs – transcend underground convention by rapping as much about women and money as about anything else. Their verbal back-and-forth will also remind you of Golden Age duos like Q-Tip and Phife or EPMD.

Slum Village – Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 (Counterflow, 1997)

Featured Music

Exploring The Foundations, Vol. 1: Bossa Nova

Welcome to the first post in a series intended to explore hip-hop’s musical roots. Although not an expert musicologist by any means, my aim with this series is to demonstrate how hip-hop’s uniqueness lies in its ability to incorporate a limitless variety of sounds and styles. This idea is critical, I think, because it is precisely this property which separates hip-hop from the genres that preceded it. Indeed, with the invention of beat mixing, and later sampling, hip-hop producers discovered a method for making music that transcends the limits posed by traditional instrumentation. For example, a rock band (composed of, say, two guitar players and a drummer) is forever limited to making music based on the sounds of two guitars and a drum set. A hip-hop producer, on the other hand, is restrained only by her imagination, and in a single day might make one beat based on a jazz sample, a second on a rock sample and a third on a sample lifted from an Armenian folk record.

For more of my ramblings on this topic, check out some of our earlier posts.

Anyways, for the inaugural post in this series I’m tackling bossa nova, an underrated but extremely influential genre indigenous to Brazil. Developed in the late 1950s, bossa nova (“new way” in Portuguese) was initially considered “music of the Brazilian middle and upper classes” for both its lyrical content and the socio-economic status of its composers. For example, “The Girl From Ipanema” – perhaps the genre’s most recognizable tune – is “nothing more than … [a] description of a woman walking down towards the beach, the sweet way in which she moves and how beautiful she is.” Despite this (or perhaps because of this), the music resonated among young Brazilians, many of whom who were weary of the melancholic, ‘working class’ music that was popular at the time. According to Nils Jacobson, bossa nova “was like a fresh breeze off the shore.”

Musically, the genre has been described as a less percussive, more harmonically complex derivative of samba. Bossa nova songs generally feature pulsating, understated rhythms played on classical guitar and jazz inflected vocal or instrumental melodies influenced by early American pop music (many of the genre’s originators were members of Rio de Janiero’s Frank Sinatra fan club) and late ’50s cool bop. Although not considered essential, drums and percussion have been used effectively on several bossa nova recordings to enhance the genre’s already palpable groove (check out Mas Que Nada for evidence of bossa nova’s capacity for ass-shaking).

By the early 1960s bossa nova was in the ascendancy, its usurpation of samba as Brazil’s national music nearly complete. In 1962, bossa nova was introduced to American audiences by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd on their album Jazz Samba. The album’s popularity caused a “bossa nova craze” in the United States, and led Stan Getz to collaborate with Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto and his wife Astrud Gilberto on 1964’s Getz/Gilberto. An absolute classic, the album won the 1964 Grammy for Best Album and is among the best selling jazz records of all time. Getz understood bossa nova, and the soft tones of his saxophone blend perfectly with Gilberto’s subdued strumming and Antonio Jobim’s gentle, care-free lyrics.

Unfortunately, the nascent bossa nova movement was unable to sustain its integrity in the face of such rapid and widespread popularity. Lured by “opportunity, money, freedom, or escape,” the genre’s innovators dispersed, and bossa nova’s creative impetus quickly dissipated.

In terms of its impact, Bossa nova’s legacy on popular music has been lasting. Joao Gilberto’s daughter Bebel, for example, has combined bossa nova with electronica and nu-jazz to much acclaim. Indeed, her 2000 album Tanto Tampo sold over a million copies and she has received numerous international awards for her unique brand of music. Check out “Bring Back The Love” and “Cade Voce?” from her most recent album Momento:

Bebel Gilberto – Bring Back The Love (Momento, 2007)

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Bebel Gilberto – Cade Voce? (Momento, 2007)

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Among hip-hop producers bossa nova is appreciated to varying degrees. Some have sampled it with great success while others seem completely indifferent to its possibilities.

Notably, two years ago the Black Eyed Peas collaborated with Sergio Mendez on a remake of Mas Que Nada:

And last year Mochilla released a documentary called Brasilintime about a group of American djs who travelled to Brazil to perform with some legendary samba and bossa nova drummers. I haven’t seen it, but apparently it’s quite good. Here’s the trailer:

Perhaps the best use of bossa nova by a producer to date has been J Dilla’s appropriation of Stan Getz’ “Saudade Vem Correndo” for The Pharcyde’s “Runnin.'” Dilla uses Getz’ jazzy interpretation of the bossa nova groove to create a laid back template for The Pharcyde’s off-kilter, alternative raps. The results are compelling and “Runnin'” remains among The Pharcyde’s most popular tracks. Have a listen:

Stan Getz – Suadade Vem Correndo (Jazz Samba Encore!, 1963)

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The Pharcyde – Runnin’ (Labcabincalifornia, 1995)

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Also, check out this tribute to Dilla and “Runnin'” at the premiere of Brasilintime

Bossa nova, whether in its original form or as interpreted by Stan Getz and other American jazz musicians, remains a fertile ground for sampling. Its warm, exuberant vibe and mid-tempo groove are well suited to beat-making and pair well with the bohemian aesthetic of jazz rap/underground groups like The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, Little Brother etc. If anything, I suspect we’ll be hearing more bossa nova samples as producers scramble to unearth new sources of loops and hip-hop continues its inexorable spread across the world.


New Music For You To Ride With

Atmosphere, your girl’s favourite hip-hop group, released their latest ablum, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, last week.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Atmosphere since I first heard tracks like “Modern Man’s Hustle” and “A Heave And A Ho” (does anyone know where to find this?). On one hand, Ant is a talented beatmaker and Slug is a dope lyricist. On the other hand, however, the common criticism levelled at the Minnesota duo – that they spend too much making introspective “emo rap” – is often true, especially on Lemons. The album is good, overall, but descends for long streches into dreary stories about tragic characters (“she got a condition of the heart, a heart condition” Slug raps on “Dreamer”) and lost love backed by competent but uninspiring beats. It’s like Atmosphere recorded the album on autopilot: recycling the same formula they’ve used for the past decade or so. But check out some of Lemons’ better tracks and decide for yourself:

Atmosphere – Waitress (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, 2008)

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Atmosphere – Puppets (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, 2008)

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If you’re feelin’ these tracks, download the album here then buy it here (or at your local independent record store) and support dope hip-hop!

Also new is Buckshot & 9th Wonder’s second album The Formula. Although I haven’t listened to it in its entirety, most reviews agree it’s better than their first collaboration, Chemistry, which suffered from lacklustre production and weak rhymes. Fortunately, the two cats appear to have regrouped and produced something worth the combined anticipation their two names generate. Check out “Go All Out,” courtesty of All Up In Your Earhole.

Buckshot & 9th Wonder – Go All Out ft. Carlitta Durand (The Formula, 2008)

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Download the album here then buy it here.

I also managed to finally get my hands on J Dilla’s Jay Love Japan. Upon first hearing about this album’s existence I foolishly assumed it would feature Dilla chopping up rare Japanese funk and soul samples (how dope would that be?). Apparently, the album’s title is actually a satirical take on underground rappers who claim they’re huge in Japan or Europe.

Fortunately, my initial disappointment quickly receded after I started listening to Japan, which is chock-full of pure Dilla goodness. If you’re jonesing for those crunchy, distinct Jay Dee drums and brilliantly chopped soul samples layered over sub-woofer destroying bass lines you absolutely need to own this album. In fact, it may even be better than the Ruff Draft EP. Either way, it reminds you how absolutely tragic the Detroit producer’s passing was.

R.I.P. Dilla

J Dilla – Red Light ft. J*Davey (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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J Dilla – Lucy ft. Bo Bo Lamb (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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J Dilla – Say It! ft. Ta’Raach & DJ Exile (Jay Love Japan, 2006?)

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Buy Jay Love Japan here.

Cool Music

That’s Professor Def to you

I managed to catch Mos Def playing in Ann Arbor the other night. His show was on MLK Day and was dedicated to the memory of J Dilla, the slain Detroit producer.

I’ve got to say it was a really interesting style of show. For those of you who’ve ever been to the Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan, you know it’s not exactly the traditional hip hop spot. Plush, upholstered, assigned seating is not the way I normally catch these shows, but it did lend a kind of legitimacy to Mos’ performance. Middle aged men in blazers and turtlenecks were sitting next to 16 year old hoodlums in hats and hoodies, and yet there was no sign of tension. That’s the real magic of Mos. He can manage to bring together one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever seen at a show, and unite them all.

Mos, debuting a band he called “Watermelon”, was unbelievable. It was originally billed as Mos Def and the Mos Def Big Band, but apparently not all of the Big Band came along. Instead, this is yet another of Mos’ side projects (Similar to Black Jack Johnson, the band he used on The New Danger). They were phenomenal as a live band. All of them were very talented musicians, and really made art out of playing J Dilla beats live. Mos, of course, was impeccable. The whole show had a very jazzy air to it, and it seemed that half of the time Mos was just doing whatever he felt like, improving a little to the beats.

Obviously the crowd was going crazy when Mos finally did Ms Fat Booty, but I think that the people were even more impressed and surprised when they heard Mos covering other songs. It was not at all what I expected, to hear this live jazzy beat and hear Mos cover Pharcyde or Eric B & Rakim. But he did a fantastic job, of course.

Still, the biggest surprise must have come at the end of the show. The crowd was on their feet, swaying, dancing, and completely wrapped up in the music. Enough yelling and cheering managed to get Mos and the band back out for an incredibly high-energy encore, which was just amazing. The music stopped. An official from the University walked on stage. He began his speech simply enough, talking about how great it was to see everyone coming out to honour Dr. King. How great the performance was. How great the whole day had been. He smiled, this incredibly large smile. As if he knew he was about to do something great. We all knew an award was coming, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be this. He took a deep breath, and announced that they were giving Mos Def an honorary visiting professorship! That’s right. That’s Professor Def to you!