Dear James, With Love, Orsi

James Yancey aka Jay Dee aka J Dilla

Dear James,

We don’t know each other (although sometimes I feel like you’re one of the few people who has ever really “known me”), but when I was asked to write something in your memory, I jumped at the chance, not fully realising just how difficult I would find it. I mean, what could I possibly have to say about you that hasn’t already been said by so many other more influential and more articulate people than me? Hopefully it shouldn’t matter what I say or how I say it, as long as it comes from the heart, right?

Having said that, I would like to start this letter off by saying that I am sorry. After I found out that you had been taken away from us (and I say ‘taken’, because I don’t like the thought of you having left willingly) I kind of stopped listening to hip-hop for a period of time. I was too angry and upset. Not with you, but with the whole situation, which I thought was so brutally unfair. I know, life isn’t fair… I guess I was just too young at the time to consider anything else. I couldn’t even bring myself to read anything relating to you or your music for a very long time, I just couldn’t handle it.

I know it might sound strange coming from a 22-year-old girl, a person who has never met you, or even had a conversation with you. But just like for so many other people out there in the world, you changed my life forever, whether you even realised it at the time or not. You see, I fell in love with your music long before I even knew who you were (I guess that’s why I’ve never had the guts to consider myself as one of your “hardcore fans”). You were behind the sounds of so many artists that I still hold close to my heart today. You were the mastermind behind music that helped “shape me”, music that helped me “find myself”, and consequently your music had a part in the whole process that made me the person that I am today. I discovered so many new sides to myself, and the world around me, through your music (no matter how silly that might sound). And it truly opened up a whole new universe of sounds, feelings and thoughts that I had never previously experienced. I guess another way of putting it would be that you contributed to the soundtrack to which I grew up to as a person.

People have called you a genius, you’ve been hailed as the greatest hip-hop producer/artist of all time, and rightfully so. I am not ashamed to admit that I only really “discovered you” (‘you’ as in J Dilla) a couple of years before you passed away.  I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t experienced that same ‘aha’ moment, so many other people have no doubt also experienced, when I realised who you were. But then again, I have never been bothered with names or trends when it comes to music. If it’s good it’s good, simple as, and in your case it wasn’t just good, it was (and still is!) amazing.

I could ramble on for an eternity, name-dropping all the tracks and collaborations that have touched me on a somewhat spiritual level, trying to find the right words to describe how much you and your music means to me and the huge impact you and your work has had on my life. But to be fair, words are just simply not enough… (as you might have noticed by my attempts above).

I can’t even imagine my life without you. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a few tears whilst writing this. But in a way, it gives me a sense of comfort to know that you will always be remembered. Not only through your music and through your close friends and loved ones, but also through everyday people like me, whose souls and hearts you’ve touched.

So thank you, for everything.

Much love,

Orsi

P.S. I miss you.

mp3: J Dilla – Don’t Cry

Essential Reading:

Shows around America paying tribute throughout Dilla Month:

  • DETROIT FOR DILLA
    TUES, FEB. 10, DETROIT

    Slum Village, Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, Black Milk, House Shoes, Dez, K-Fresh & others
    Tv Bar. 2554 Grand River Ave.
  • NIGHTLIFE: SONGS IN THE KEY OF “D”
    SAT, FEB 14, LOS ANGELES

    J. Rocc, DJ Babu, Rhettmatic & Mr. Choc’s Los Angeles even returns for one night.
    Venue: Echoplex, $10, 10:30-2AM, 18+
  • SUITE FOR MA DUKES
    SUN, FEB 22, LOS ANGELES

    Miguel Atwood-Ferguson & Carlos Nino with orchestra, performing “Suite for Ma Dukes” for the first time. Opening DJ Sets by J. Rocc and House Shoes.
    “Timeless” by Mochilla. Venue: Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex, 7pm – 11pm, All Ages, Tickets via Ticketmaster.
  • kidk

    a heartfelt dedication right there! respect! peace, kidk

  • kidk

    a heartfelt dedication right there! respect! peace, kidk

  • Karl G

    Orsi, that was a lovely and very fitting dedication. Thank you for writing it. Karl

  • Karl G

    Orsi, that was a lovely and very fitting dedication. Thank you for writing it. Karl

  • BigTimeCharlie

    Wow. Well that beats the snot out of the average dedication you read!

    Beautiful words. More powah to ya!

    And RIP Jay Dee. You’re missed bro.

    Peace…

  • BigTimeCharlie

    Wow. Well that beats the snot out of the average dedication you read!

    Beautiful words. More powah to ya!

    And RIP Jay Dee. You’re missed bro.

    Peace…

  • Walrii

    nice letter! i feel much the same about his music.

    the thing with dilla is that his beats had a sound in and of themselves. unquantized techno/soul/hiphop which incorporated a legacy of detroit music into a classical, efforless soundlikenoother.

    it took his death for the hiphop/beathead community to understand this, and through his passing sprouted a generation of post-dilla beatcats mining the bottomless sound Jay came to create.

    he revolutionised the entire electronic music world when he stood up to the MPC2000 in the early ninties and switched the quantize off.

    the wake of his death brought about a synergy between hiphop and electronic music which in turn has pushed electronic sounds into the future much faster than anyone expected.

    love walrus.

  • Walrii

    nice letter! i feel much the same about his music.

    the thing with dilla is that his beats had a sound in and of themselves. unquantized techno/soul/hiphop which incorporated a legacy of detroit music into a classical, efforless soundlikenoother.

    it took his death for the hiphop/beathead community to understand this, and through his passing sprouted a generation of post-dilla beatcats mining the bottomless sound Jay came to create.

    he revolutionised the entire electronic music world when he stood up to the MPC2000 in the early ninties and switched the quantize off.

    the wake of his death brought about a synergy between hiphop and electronic music which in turn has pushed electronic sounds into the future much faster than anyone expected.

    love walrus.

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