Review: Jay Dee Made This | FT. Illa J (@illaj) , Frank N Dank, T3 of Slum Village (@t3sv), Que D

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On Thursday 19th Octo­ber, Under the Bridge in Ful­ham played trib­ute to the leg­acy of legendary pro­du­cer and rap­per J Dilla. Titled the Jay­dee Made This Tour, the event was almost lit­er­ally a fam­ily affair as his cous­in Que D opened the night and little brother Illa J was spe­cial guest for the even­ing. The night wasn’t solely lim­ited to blood rel­at­ives of Dilla either, and close col­lab­or­at­ors T3 from Slum Vil­lage, and rap duo Frank n Dank joined the line-up.

There’s an oft repeated say­ing on many hip-hop for­ums that MF Doom is your favour­ite rapper’s favour­ite rap­per. Using the same reas­on­ing, Dilla is your favour­ite producer’s favour­ite pro­du­cer. Kanye West once said, “we have to make music and we got­ta think, if Dilla was alive, would he like this?” Madlib, 9th Won­der, and ‘Ye all cite him as a major influ­ence on their sound. Such was Dilla’s effect that by the time of his death in early 2006, he occu­pied a semi-myth­ic­al spot in hip-hop as an excep­tion­al pro­du­cer.  His impact spread bey­ond hip-hop, with him pion­eer­ing the neo-soul gen­re and influ­en­cing con­tem­por­ary jazz musi­cians with his lan­guid atmo­spher­ic sounds.

Hail­ing from Detroit, J Dilla was born James Dewitt Yan­cey and always seemed destined for great music­al prowess — his mother was a former opera sing­er and his father was a former jazz bassist.  Grow­ing up his work eth­ic was fabled, with fam­ily mem­bers hav­ing to remind him to eat as he was always locked away in the stu­dio com­pos­ing soul­ful jazz inspired and exper­i­ment­al beats. Sub­sequently, he star­ted gar­ner­ing atten­tion as an intel­li­gent and gif­ted beat smith and even­tu­ally pro­duced for not­able artists such as De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Com­mon, A Tribe Called Quest and D’Angelo.

Aside from the kin­ship, the acts owed a lot to Dilla, not just music­ally, but also in spir­it. Que D opened the night with an eclectic DJ set shout­ing out the leg­acy of Dilla before kick­ing off by play­ing James Brown and con­tinu­ing into a won­der­ful soul heavy set that Dilla would have approved. A few tech­nic­al prob­lems with the sub sys­tem slightly marred the audio qual­ity, but oth­er­wise it was a decent trib­ute.

T3 rep­res­en­ted Slum Vil­lage with a pre­cise and ener­get­ic set. Dilla was a mem­ber of Slum Vil­lage for some years, and argu­ably pro­duced some of his best work with them. Open­ing with ‘Fall In Love’, it was a bril­liant high­light of how well Dilla could craft airy romantic and smooth time­less songs and how per­son­able T3 can sound on the mic.  T3 hyped the crowd up with an anim­ated per­form­ance of ‘I Don’t Know’. The key part of his set was the gor­geous ‘The Look of Love, Pt. 1’. It was a stun­ning part of the night, hear­ing the audi­ence roar, “you know what love is/Ask SV it’s all bull­shit”.

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Next up, Dilla’s young­er brother Illa J came through to rep­res­ent the Yan­cey clan. By his own right, you can tell he grew up around oth­er musi­cians (he spat his first bars when he was thir­teen, over his older brother’s beats). He had a ter­ri­fic stage pres­ence and a pol­ished rigour in his set, able to effort­lessly weave between singing and rap­ping. Has he made his mind up as to which one he prefers more? Who knows. He seemed just as com­fort­able singing the jazzy ‘Time­less’, straight off the acclaimed Yan­cey Boys album and cov­er­ing D’Angelo’s ‘Brown Sug­ar’ as he was spit­ting over the chilled ‘All Good’. Even when he changed pace and covered the more frantic ‘Fuck the Police’ (by his brother, not NWA), he seemed per­fectly at home. If there’s any down­side to Illa’s set, it was the fact that it was rel­at­ively short and omit­ted some of his most not­able songs. Illa J has an impress­ive cata­logue and it would be nice to see him exploit­ing some of that by play­ing ‘DFTF’ or oth­er tracks from the Yan­cey Boys album. On the plus side, he did per­form some new music, bring­ing on Vanes­sa White to sing ‘Low Key’, an old school sound­ing RnB song with fant­ast­ic vocals from White and verse from Illa.

Frank n Dank, closed off the night with an immensely fun set, even incor­por­at­ing a hip-hop quiz involving the audi­ence. The duo, con­sist­ing of Frank Bush and Der­rick Har­vey, were eas­ily the most per­son­able act of the night, able to veer between drop­ping party driv­en tracks like ‘Pause’ and ‘Take Your Clothes Off’, and drop­ping insights about Dilla’s leg­acy in between songs. They also played sev­er­al songs off 48 Hours such as ‘Ma Dukes’, an album pro­duced by Dilla entirely from scratch without samples. ‘Push’, a reg­gae influ­enced joint, was the high­light of their set. Stay­ing true to the party vibe of their set, Frank n Dank ended the set by invit­ing audi­ence mem­bers onto the stage for a dance off to soul, funk and dis­co music. Yes, one of those mem­bers invited on stage was myself.

The Jay­dee Made This tour is stead­ily mak­ing its way through Europe right now, and for fans of Dilla, it prom­ises to be a won­der­ful blast of nos­tal­gia, but also a fant­ast­ic demon­stra­tion of the incred­ible music of Dilla’s fam­ily and friends.

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Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa

Mark is a South Lon­don based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He’s also an MMA and his­tory enthu­si­ast who tries to keep his love of animé under wraps.

About Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa
Mark is a South London based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He's also an MMA and history enthusiast who tries to keep his love of anime under wraps.