Discovering Dilla: J Dilla’s Influence Lives On in Detroit’s Next Generation of Musicians

You may have heard the name of famed Detroit producer J Dilla before, but what makes his influence on music so important today?


Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation. CultureShift airs weekdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit Public Radio.

The 8th annual Dilla Youth Day is happening Sunday, February 10th at the Charles Wright Museum.

The all-day event will have programming for kids of all ages and honors the legacy of Detroit musician J Dilla.

You may have heard the name J Dilla before but who was he and why is he so important to Detroit?

James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla, was a hip hop producer from Detroit’s east-side neighborhood, Conant Gardens. He suffered from Lupus and passed away in 2006.

Before his death, Dilla was key in creating a new sound—known for sampling older records and making new music with an electronic drum machine known as an MPC.

“The things he was doing as a producer were very musical,” explains WDET sound engineer and Will Sessions band leader, Sam Beaubien. “J Dilla invented a new type of beat that …transcended hip hop.”

Piper Carter is a community organizer, photographer, and a lead organizer of Dilla Youth Day.

According to Carter, Dilla “created a whole new genre. That can only have been created in Detroit, a city that was rooted in soul (music).”

“In the history of hip hop…if you go all the way back to its roots with what we know now as electronic music—J Dilla, through the tutelage of Amp Fiddler, took that to next level,” adds Carter. 

Dilla Youth Day is free and open to the public of all ages.

Click on the audio player above to hear more about an event that honors the legacy of Detroit musician J Dilla.