My good friend Primus Luta posted the following article yesterday on Dilla, beattapes and unquantizing – among other things. With today marking Dilla’s birthday I felt it appropriate to include here, not least because Dilla is a huge part of this project but also because Primus touches on a lot of things that are relevant to what I’m trying to articulate with the Boom Bap Continuum, not least of which is Dilla’s lasting influence on producers.
A few of my favourite bits
In addition to posthumous releases under Dilla’s name the estate also licenses tracks for projects by other artists. With over 4000 tracks in their possession, it stands to reason there will be plenty more Dilla in the future. Yet still there is a sense that ‘new Dilla’ will never be new again, as in the future we will only be able to look at Dilla’s past. How would his process as an artist have grown? Surely whatever he was doing before he passed sounds nothing like what he would be doing in 2012.
The most recognized technique from Donuts is the chop. The chop comes out of the stab line of techniques. A stab is a single instrumental hit played on a sampler. On the MPC line of samplers (which Dilla was famous for using), stabs could be spread across trigger pads pitch shifted chromatically allowing melodic sequences to be played using a single stab. The chop takes that a step further by using multiple samples from the same source (chops) to replace the chromatic stabs, and play melodically. What Dilla displayed on Donuts however, is not merely the chop but the variety of techniques available by which a producer can chop. Working outside the limitations of loops and stabs, new techniques like drum and instrument isolation, de-quantization, vocal stabs and more come at you, one layered technique after the other.
Many of these techniques have been canonized today, but some quality has been lost with that normalization. With de-quantization by example, overuse has practically rendered the technique cliché because its depth was reduced by its definition. De-quantization translates to simply turning off the preference in software programs or hardware beat machines that align all sound triggers to the grid of the tempo and time signature. That definition speaks nothing to what Dilla actually did with that preference off, which was impose his own humanized sense of timing onto the de-quantized patterns of the machine.