Tag Archives: J Dilla

On “Big Shoes,” Big Tone Takes Listeners on a Journey

Big Tone

“I was becoming a father around the time we finished recording this album,” says the rapper Big Tone, talking about his latest LP Big Shoes. “What started out as a project designed to preserve the music changed its purpose. It’s not just about me any more, it’s about my family. The tone of the record reflects being in that new space in life, and the responsibility that comes along with it.”

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Lifetime Achievement: ShunGu

ShunGu

“I wouldn’t be making music if it wasn’t for J Dilla,” says ShunGu, a hip-hop producer based in Brussels whose music hooks post-Dilla beats around the head-nodding combination of woozy, melodic synths and thumping drum patterns. “For me, in hip-hop, Dilla’s like what John Coltrane is to jazz. Dilla’s choice of samples, his choice of drums—it all comes from Dilla for me.”

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Killer Bee’s Lo-Fi Beats Pay Homage to Numerology, Dilla, & His Late Grandfather

Killer Bee

For an artist who tells his life story using only drum kicks and snares, producer Killer Bee sure has a lot to say. The 24-year-old has released six albums of instrumental hip-hop, each one serving as a diary entry writ in sound. Through stirring harmonic progressions and sampled dialog, he reflects on his childhood, past romantic relationships, and his ongoing search to find his place in the world. His beats can feel like a curtain drawn back from the most intimate parts of the producer’s psyche, revealing the heightened semi-reality of dreams and memories, where every conjured image and every triggered sample carries symbolic weight.

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Artist of the Week: Kev Brown’s Master Class Is In Session

Kev Brown

Photos by Jati Lindsay

Landover hasn’t changed much since the 1990s—that is, unless you count the massive football stadium where Washington’s NFL team plays football. The municipal buildings all look pretty much the same, and the weeds still crack the sidewalk along Martin Luther King Jr. Highway near Hill Road. Up the street, the Booker T. Homes community winds around to the neighborhood basketball court, where you’d get the best, and toughest, games ever. Sometimes you had to fight your way out. The local McDonald’s got remodeled, though. And it looks like the Cedar Heights Community Center is still hanging on.

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The Story of Phat Kat, “Carte Blanche,” and The Gods of Detroit Hip-Hop

Phat KatPhat Kat’s legacy is unbreakably tethered to J Dilla’s. Even as far back as the early 1990s, Dilla kept a tight crew of artists around him in Detroit. And nobody was a more important hero in the Dillaverse than Phat Kat, the streetwise MC with a swaggering flow, the “city of crooks”’ most funky, one of the producer’s most trusted warlocks. Continue reading

Los Angeles Rapper YUNGMORPHEUS is a Name You Should Know

YUNGMORPHEUS

The March 1993 cover of High Times is pinned to the wall above YUNGMORPHEUS’s desk. On the front, the rapper Redman—prompted by the headline “GET BLUNTED!”—studiously lights a spliff. In his sparsely-decorated apartment, Morpheus is celebrating the release of he and VIK’s new collaborative album—Strapped 4 Survival, under their duo name Blackfist—with tightly-rolled, conical joints. His girlfriend, Sofya, sits on their bed, smoking and drawing in a sketch pad. Their black and tan dog, Booker, shyly gambols around the room. It’s a bright spring day in Los Angeles, their houseplants are flowering, and Morpheus’s career seems to be blooming in kind.

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Rapper-Producer Black Milk Balances Optimism and Reality on “FEVER”

Black Milk

Photo by Delaney Teichler.

Black Milk says three albums influenced his own forthcoming LP, FEVER: Little Simz’s kaleidoscopic Stillness in Wonderland, the Internet’s breakout Ego Death, and Tame Impala’s psychedelic opus Currents. The rapper-producer hesitates to namedrop that last act, though. “I said I wasn’t going to mention them in any of the interviews,” he says over the phone, “because they’ve become so trendy now and I was kind of a fan of those guys way back on their first album years ago. But they’re a thing now.”

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Reflection Eternal: 10 Tributes to Hip-Hop Producer Nujabes

Nujabes

Photo by Yosuke Moriya

Given how Nujabes lived his life, there shouldn’t be much proof of his legacy online. The Japanese hip-hop producer rarely granted interviews and avoided having his photo taken. He didn’t even want his discography released for streaming because of the diminished sound quality. Even now, seven years after he died in 2010 during a traffic collision, his name remains a widely used tag on this site. Much like J Dilla, Nujabes is held up as a symbol of consciousness, canonized through freestyles, tribute concerts, and homages. Here’s a roundup of the best Nujabes tributes on Bandcamp.

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