There is no doubt that rapping dominates hip-hop. No matter how good a beat is, for the casual hip-hop fan, the bars being spit over it will almost always be more important. Even a mega-producer like Kanye West didn't ascend to superstar status until he released The College Dropout and rapped over his superb beats.
But what if we told you there is a man whose staggering contributions to hip-hop is an album (generally considered his masterpiece and a seminal album in contemporary urban music) that is 100 percent instrumental?
The man we speak of is J Dilla and the album is Donuts, and while he shuffled loose of this mortal coil 10 years ago last week, almost any hip-hopper with an opinion worth respecting would tell you that Dilla is a legend who did as much for rap music as the recently deceased David Bowie did for pop.
“J Dilla is one of the most influential individuals in the history of hip-hop, and the gravity of his presence was incomparable," says Roqy Tyraid, a Phoenix lyricist who is going to MC a tribute show to Dilla on Friday, February 19, at Tempe Tavern. "He transcended the traditional sound of hip-hop to avenues like R&B, and then he basically championed the contemporary soul movement. I don't like using the term neo-soul but he put a contemporary spin on soul music with people like Badu and D'Angelo. He pushed the envelope in hip-hop in ways that are still being mimicked to this day 10 years after his passing.”
Tyraid along with his partners from the Hip Hop House Nick Norris and DJ J20 is organizing the all-DJ event in accordance and with the “blessing” of the J Dilla Foundation, a charity organized by Dilla’s mother Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, Toney Smith, and Dave NewYork.
The foundation is in place to help fund music education programs in urban schools and all of the proceeds from the show, which will be held at Tempe Tavern, will be going directly to it. The evening's tunes will be provided by SlopFunkDust, Mattlocks, J20 & DN3, Les735 & Blesd 1, Reflekshin, and Big Serg, as well as live painting by Haboobs.
“As we regularly honor individuals like Biggie and Tupac and Big L and Big Pun it’s only right to acknowledge someone who not only left a mark on hip-hop but pushed it in a whole new direction. He was a trailblazer,” Tyraid says.
A better term than trailblazer might not exist for the late producer, as he helped pave the way for and distinctly influenced rappers and artists ranging like Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Pharcyde, Erykah Badu, Questlove, Janet Jackson, and almost too many others to name.
"Before I even began MCing I was aware of his presence through acts like Slum Village and just being a hip-hop head and studying what makes music what it is — studying acts like Busta Rhymes and Tribe Called Quest and Pharcyde," Tyraid says. "He essentially shaped my adolescence, creatively.”