Being that February is Dilla month, there’s always a flurry of articles, mixes and homage projects put online to celebrate the work of someone who was undeniably one of the greatest hip hop producers of our times. I’ve been collecting the most relevant for my research – a couple of which I’ve already posted – and the last one I’m going to add is this article by The Roots’ Questlove published over at XXL.
Explaining to the magazine why Dilla was the greatest of all time, Questlove makes a few points which I found relevant for my research and work namely when he breaks down what he sees as Dilla’s four phases, I quote:
You also gotta think about his range. His range is bar none. He’s gone through [four] production phases in his professional career. He didn’t stick to one. That’s the thing that really separates him from everyone in hip-hop. He started off with that post-Tribe, boom bap with [the] loud kushy drums and a bouncy bassline—[which] especially did well for The Pharcyde album and Tribe records. But then in a snap, he went to—once he started working with us, with the Soulquarians—he started playing the stuff live. The most hilarious thing of it all was that he was not technically a musician. But he was able to get the sound that he heard in his head, not only executed onto tape, but he did it in such an original way that it actually started to change our view of how we made music.
This is only the beginning of the explanation by Questlove, which continues to touch on the next phases as well as reveal an interesting take on hidden messages in Donuts left by Dilla in the form of the samples he chose and how he flipped them. The article isn’t too long and worth a read. The fact that someone like Questlove who knew Dilla so well affirms this idea that he went from the 90s boom bap sound onward nicely fits within this idea of the aesthetic’s evolution through the 00s, driven in no small part by Dilla and other key producers.