Hip hop heads know that in February we celebrate the life and sounds of one of the most influential producers since the birth of our beloved genre, James Yancee AKA J Dilla. Dilla’s rise to prominence began in the mid 90’s as a member of the Detroit group Slum Village. The group’s debut, Fantastic Vol 1, gained a cult following in it’s native town and also caught the attention of Q-Tip. Both Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed from A Tribe Called Quest joined Dilla and together became a production group by the name of The Ummah. What followed was a complete sonic takeover based on his production style which earned him the chance to produce and remix songs for Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde, Janet Jackson, The Roots, etc. During this time, Yancey also joined another collective by the name of The Soulquarians, composed of The Roots’ Questlove, D’Angelo, and James Poyser. The Soulquarians were an influential crew in the sound of the late 90s – early 2000’s hip hop, soul and R&B; other notable members joined later, among them were Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli.

Unfortunately, Dilla suffered from a rare blood disorder (Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura) which hospitalized him various times in the mid 2000’s. While hospitalized in 2005, he produced his final album, a 31 track instrumental album named Donuts which was released on his birthday (February 7th) in 2006. Dilla passed away three days after. James Yancey managed to influence tons of up and coming producers during his time, including Pharell Williams and Kanye West, the latter once said “it felt like drugs, his music just sounded like good pussy.”

With the numerous classics he left behind, this playlist could’ve been twice as long (specially with a few classics missing like De La Soul’s Stakes Is High) but we narrowed it down to 32 tracks of non stop classics. This Spotify #DillaMonth playlist is our tribute to his birth, life, death and legacy. Here are some of the highlights of J Dilla’s career.