By Jay Ray / @jayrayisthename
The posthumous legend of James D. Yancey (aka Jay Dee aka J Dilla) is peculiar. Not because it isn’t deserved - quite the opposite, actually.
One of my favorite BET moments happened in 2004. Pharrell was on 106 & Park and said that his favorite producer was Jay Dee. Now, that had to be clarified, because legendary producer Jermaine Dupree also uses the moniker JD. Pharrell provided that clarification - “Jay Dee, from Detroit.” The crowd was, unsurprisingly, clueless.
In life, Dilla was arguably responsible for redefining the sound of hip-hop in the late-90s into the 2000s. He had a knack for it. The bass drum was in the right place. The snares had the right snap. The bass rode the beat masterfully. The samples were perfectly obscure, but recognizable. Dilla means a lot of things to a lot of people. Doing anything in honor of him should be quality - out of respect. Unfortunately several posthumous releases in tribute have either been “ok,” “forgettable,” derivative or down right bad.
Byron The Aquarius hails from Birmingham, AL. An important fact, because musically, he’s proven to be one of the most interesting producers on the scene. His catalog boasts hip-hop, house music and future soul/beat scene sounds. None of these things are traditionally identified with Birmingham.
Disclosure: I think this is a good time to mention that I actually know Byron, and I respect him. What I am about to say is about the music, not about Byron.
It’s not derivative. These are new songs.
It takes the world of Dilla, actually Jay Dee, and interprets it into something new. Dilla was very prolific and by the mid-2000s, his beat making had radically shifted. This record is Like Water For Chocolate era Yancey.
The record sounds like love. It sounds like admiration. Everyone who appears on the project wants to be there, and they want to do well. They know the reason for their presence, and they accept it.
As the cursor blinks on this page, the record is actually repeating again. The record has repeated about 6 times since Sunday. So when you read any email, any Facebook post, any Tweet that I have written in the last two days, just know one of the songs on J D I L L A WHAT UP DOE VOL. 1 was likely playing in my ear. Not easy to accomplish. Good job Aquarius!