It’s been three years since the passing of J Dilla, a producer whose influence looms as large as any other beatmaker’s in contemporary hip-hop. I won’t get into the man’s artistic greatness here; the bevy of YouTube clips, from friends and amateur DJs alike, speaks to Dilla’s enduring legacy. And I won’t bother fully explaining why, to my mind, his last completed album, Donuts, which he finished in the hospital while dying from lupus, is the most exciting record I’ve heard this decade; suffice to say I’ve yet to hear an album that summons so many human emotions, that speaks from such a unique, personal perspective, despite (or is it because?) the fact that it’s entirely culled from samples of other people’s music.
But it’s only proper to bring some deserved attention to a couple recent developments in Dillaland. First, the recent article in VIBE magazine that explains the ongoing crisis with regard to Dilla’s estate. There’s six-figure debt involved, and protracted disagreements between the producer’s old friends and collaborators (they include Busta Rhymes and Common), all of which stands in the way of Dilla’s two daughters, seven and nine years old, receiving any compensation. And to make matters worse, it turns out that his mother, Maureen Yancy (lovingly referred to as Ma Dukes by family and friends) has the same cancer that killed her son.
To raise money for the family, Dilla’s friends at his record label Stone's Throw have started selling a limited edition “Raise it Up For Ma Dukes!” t-shirt. It’s a good-looking shirt, plus the cause is unbeatable. Raise it up.