In 2006, a permanent hole was left in the center of hip-hop when genius producer J Dilla passed away following a lengthy battle with Lupus. Though he is no longer with us, Jay Dee’s legacy continues on in his stellar instrumentals and production, which has given his music new life, even in his death. Here are the top ten posthumous J Dilla tracks:
10.) Guilty Simpson, “Clap Your Hands”
Frequent Dilla collaborator and Detroit-native Guilty Simpson hops on the track and gives a verse that matches the roughness of the track. More of Guilty and Dilla’s collaborations can be found on posthumous J Dilla releases The Shining, Jay Stay Paid and Guilty’s Ode To The Ghetto.
9.) Charles Hamilton, “Krispy Kreme Intentions”
J Dilla fanboy Charles Hamilton released an entire mixtape of songs over Dilla beats entitled And Then They Played Dilla. This track is easily the standout, with Hamilton showing off his mike skills over some of Dilla’s best. It’s a shame that Chucky had to start running his mouth, claiming he had a spiritual connection with Dilla, and then lying that he had spoken with J’s estate and they had let him list Dilla as executive producer for his album. Kid learned the hard way it’s not wise to piss off the fanbase of a legend.
8.) Drake, “Where to Now?”
This Drake gem came off of his Comeback Season mixtape, and had him going off about his current position in rap, all over one of Dilla’s most famous beats, “Time: The Donuts of the Heart”. Drake proved his status as a Dilla fan when he gave a shout out to the man on his song “Show Me a Good Time” when he says “Imma spend another 10 thousand for Dilla”.
7.) Busta Rhymes, “Takin What’s Mine”
Busta followed in the same path as Hamilton did, releasing a mixtape all featuring J Dilla beats entitled Dillagence. However, while Charles never met the man, Busta had always been a vocal supporter of Jay’s work and even at one point said that Dilla had helped influence and contribute to every one of Busta’s solo albums.
6.) Ghostface Killah, “Whip You with a Strap”
The instrumental for this song can be found on J Dilla’s album Donuts, under the title “One for Ghost”, which is a tongue and cheek reference for Ghost’s future use of this beat. Tony Starks weaves a narrative of growing up with a Mother who was not afraid to smack a young Ghost upside the head should he ever misbehave. Man, kids got it easy today.
5.) Q-Tip, “Move”
As if you needed another reason to love Q-Tip’s album The Renaissance. This song is just straight up throwback greatness, that’s guaranteed to make you bust a…well, move.
4.) Common (Ft. D’Angelo), “So Far To Go”
Common had been a very close personal friend of J Dilla’s, both having been part of the Soulquarians collective and even at one point being roommates when Dilla’s health condition had begun to deteriorate, so it should come as no surprise that Common would pay respect to his late friend by creating such a classic song using one of his instrumentals. Long time musical recluse D’Angelo even gets his ass dragged out of hiding to deliver the chorus on this ode to the females. [ed. Note: there are two different versions of this song out there, with Common’s lyrics being the only difference. One version is on his album “Finding Forever”, and the other one is found on the posthumous Dilla album “The Shining”.]
3.) Raekwon (Ft. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man), “House of Flying Daggers”
Dilla had given this track to Raekwon while he was still alive, but the constant delay in OBFCLII meant that he would never be alive to hear it. Damn shame, because this record is a perfect mixture of Wu-Tang and Dilla, thrown in a blender to create an awesome track.
2.) Mos Def (Ft. Talib Kweli), “History”
This is one of the standout track on an already standout album, and the closest thing we’ve had to a full on Blackstar reunion. Between each rapper delivering flawless verses, the soulful and sublime Dilla production, and that jaw-droppingly good coda by Mos Def at the end, this is one song that you will be immediately hitting repeat on the second it’s over.
1. The Roots, “Can’t Stop This”
The illest band in hip hop use the same Dilla beat that Drake had used, but make it a thousand times better. It begins with a heart wrenching phone call from Black Thought, who expresses his pain over the loss of someone who was a true friend of his, and someone who can never be forgotten. From there, the song kicks in, and Black Thought weaves a poetic narrative and eulogy to the late producer, one that fits so perfectly with the track that you would believe they were meant for each other. One of the best tracks from both of their careers.