James (Jay Dee/J Dilla) Yancey
The Greatest Beatmaker of All Time
Me and my cousin (Hynes Rizzo), in the late ’80’s early ’90’s,used to turn Detroit upside down in search of the flavor. Our newfagled independence (18 pushing 21) was fresh and exciting, we seemingly did it all ,and seriously stayed 100% trouble free.
Somehow, we ran across these roving parties, called “The Rhythm Kitchen”, here (usually after hours in a New Center area Chinese restaurant) we discovered in a social aspect…a club setting…the fundamental elements of Hip-Hop. These parties were the cream of the crop of Detroit’s rapidly expanding HIP-HOP underground (Shout out to Maurice Malone and Jessica Care Moore). Here we first experienced the infinite skills of an individual by the name of Jay Dee. At this time Jay was a local d.j., his crates, his style, his mixing, his skill, his ear…even then(’91/’92) were phenomenal. I’ll never forget staring at cats breaking to the instrumental of what I didn’t even know at the time was A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario-remix”. I just knew it was the illest schitt I’d seen or heard at that point…in a Chinese restaurant.
Come to find out it was thee guy who would put Detroit Hip Hop on the map in ways Eminem couldn’t.
Jay Dee was the architect of a sound of his own. His rhythms stutter-stepped, were bass heavy with nimble bass lines, were odd yet easy to freestyle too, dance to, nod yr head to or simply zone out to. Jay’s skills…on the mic and as a beatmaker were infectious and sheer genius (see “Fuck the Police”), considering that his main instrument were vinyl/an MPC/& tons of imagination. The man made the funkiest/simplest collages out of the strangest vinyl selection…a background vocal here, a horn line there. He was the audio equivalent of Romare Bearden.
His sound can be heard on records with various artists (Slum Village, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul,Madlib, O.D.B., Spacek,Janet Jackson, Common, The Roots, and Erykah Badu and many more.
I’m proud of Jay’s accomplishments as an artist from Detroit, and as a visionary for Hip-Hop.
Do yourself a favor and get acquainted with Jay’s work. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like it even a little bit.
Jay left the planet 10 February 2006, he was 32 years old (as of 7 February). Lupus has been named as the cause of death.
Thank you for all of the work you put in in your amazing career.
You will be remembered always and missed greatly.