On the third anniversary of the passing of producer/MC James “J-Dilla” Yancey, I’ve compiled 10 essential J-dilla productions to familiarize the unfamiliar. A founding member of Slum Village Jay Dee/J-Dilla was considered by some to be the godfather of neo soul and one of the most inventive producers in hip-hop.

The Detroit MC/ Producer laced tracks for Common, A Tribe Called Quest, D’Angelo, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul and many others, but never seemed to get the recognition he deserved. He passed away on February 10, 2006 due to complications related to Lupus. He was 32 years old. Every year since 2006 his friends and family have gone through great effort to remember him.

Hardcore Dilla fans know this list only scratches the surface but you can’t feed steak to babies. These 10 are my personal favorites and what I would play for anyone asking the insane question “What did Dilla do that I’ve heard?” For a complete discography for this legendary producer/MC go to

10. Common “The Light”
Though it’s one of the most commercial Dilla beats ever you can’t deny how he took Bobby Caldwell’s elevator music and gave it serious swagger.

9. “Show Me What You Got” by Busta Rhymes
Dilla quietly gave Busta some of his best album cuts, even on the ones that didn’t sell like this gem from Anarchy.

8. Q-Tip “Let’s Ride”
Play this and The Renaissance makes even more sense…

7. Janet Jackson “Got Til It’s Gone”

While Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are officially credited with this track, many insiders insist that J-Dilla did this one hence his remix being dubbed “J-Dilla’s Revenge.” From the deep drums to the moody bassline his sonic finger prints are allover this.

6. Frank N Dank “Pause”
I say to this day that J-Dilla invented snap music. This cut from Welcome To Detroit is what it was supposed to sound like…

5. Slum Village, “Players”
My hands down favorite from Fantastic

4. Bilal, “Reminisce”
In this clip Bilal tells you him self that Mr. Yancey put together this keeper from 1st Born Second in ten minutes!

3. De La Soul “Stakes Is High”
Dilla tweaked Ahmad Jamal’s “Swahililand” to create the foundation for one of the best songs in De La Soul’s extensive catalogue.

2. A Tribe Called Quest “Find A Way”
“Technova” by Deelite’s Japanese born DJ Towa Tei gave the jazzy infused inspiration for this perfectly balanced single from The Love Movement.

1. The Pharcyde “Runnin”

One listen to Stan Getz’ “Saudade Vem Correndo” and you will truly appreciate how Dilla rearranged the horns, guitar and piano to make this Pharcyde classic.

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