My experience at Dilla Day Detroit 2014 is a day that will forever be etched in my memory. Dilla Day Detroit is an annual event held at the Fillmore Arena in Detroit, MI to celebrate the legacy of our late great Brother James “J Dilla” Yancey. James “J Dilla” Yancey is a Detroit native who is revered as arguably one of the greatest producers in music history. This year’s event was truly special, as it was held on J Dilla’s actual day of birth (February 7). So without question, a star studded lineup had to be in attendance to solidify this year’s celebration. The event was hosted by Grap Luva and Ro-Spit, and this year’s performers were Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, Phife Dawg, Slum Village, Pete Rock, DJ Premier and headliners De La Soul. I was in attendance on behalf of Smashmouth FM Radio, so the staff of Dilla Day Detroit made sure that I had proper credentials to gain prime position.
The evening started with Guilty Simpson welcoming the crowd with a very energetic set, performing songs he created along with J Dilla such as “Take Notice”, “Strapped”, “Jungle Love”, and “Baby” to an overly enthused crowd. The evening continued as Detroit native Phat Kat (Ronnie Euro) performed “Cold Steel”, “It’z A Rap”, “Detroit Madness” and other favorites that he penned along with J Dilla as well. The crowd was then met by Ma Dukes (Maureen Yancey, mother of J Dilla), as she thanked the crowd for being in attendance and talked about the legacy that her son created. She also went on to discuss the goals of the J Dilla Foundation, and let us all know to be expecting more great music from the genius that she created. Ma Dukes was then showered with love from the crowd, as we all thanked her for the gift that she gave us, her son James “J Dilla” Yancey.
During the intermission, Hip Hop fans of all ages and races congregated and browsed through J Dilla paraphernalia in support of the event. Vendors provided very unique items for fans to take home as souvenirs. I was very partial to the Dilla Day Detroit 2014 long-sleeve T-shirts myself.
The night picked up again with the world premiere of “Letter To Dilla”, the brand new video from A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg on the huge screen above the stage. The crowd went wild as Phife Dawg then appeared, and talked about his experiences of befriending and working with J Dilla. He then went into a special performance and a lively rendition of “Bend Ova”.
J Dilla inspired favorites were blasted through the speakers as the sound crew emerged, and began shifting things around on the stage. The crowd became curious as to what we could expect next, from an already satisfying evening. The crowd became even more boisterous as Hip Hop legends Pete Rock and DJ Premier made their way to the stage. Both legends took position behind their DJ set ups to a now frenzied crowd
The energy increased as both Pete Rock and DJ Premier displayed their mutual respect and admiration for one another through a DJ battle and tribute to J Dilla. They began playing original Soul, jazz and funk songs they sampled to make Hip Hop hits, followed by the songs they created from sampling the records. You could feel the love in the air as fans became overjoyed listening to some of their favorite songs. That portion was followed by them playing the favorite song of the opposite DJ to show their admiration for each other’s body of work. It was truly refreshing to watch them discuss how they watched and studied each other for the past two decades.
The set took a very humorous twist, as Pete Rock talked to the crowd about his favorite DJ Premier-produced track. Both he and his younger Brother Grap Luva told the story of their experiences of purchasing the Gangstarr “Moment of Truth” album. Pete Rock explained to the crowd how he became jealous of his younger Brother falling in love with one of the tracks. He told the crowd how he kept telling Grap Luva to “stop playing that shit”, as they both laughed. Pete Rock then said, I can’t talk about it anymore, I just gotta play it.
He then went on to play “Above the Clouds” (featuring Inspectah Deck) as Grap Luva jumped around and danced vigorously as the crowd went wild!!! Pete Rock then played his most favorite song produced by himself entitled “T.R.O.Y” as the building came apart at the seams. Pete Rock and DJ Premier both went on to give Rest In Peace shout outs to Hip Hop legends Heavy D, Guru, Big L, Ol Dirty Bastard, Big Pun, Notorious B.I.G. and 2 Pac. They also explained that they will be releasing an album in 2014 featuring production from both of them, with performances from a list of Hip Hop heavyweights
After another intermission, the crowd was met by Slum Village members T3, Illa J and RJ. The group ran through a set of Slum Village favorites such as, “Climax”, “Players”, “Get This Money”, “Fall in Love”, and “Look of Love”. The set took a special turn as Illa J (younger Brother of J Dilla) took center stage alone. He then went into a rendition of crowd favorite “One Won’t Do” as the entire crowd sang the hook to the song in unison “One won’t do, but two is not enough for me no”. Even I admit, that I wanted to shed a tear of joy as the crowd came together to show our love for our fallen Brother. The group then went on to bid the crowd farewell and tell us that we could expect new music from Slum Village in the near future.
As if things couldn’t get any better, the headliners for the evening, De La Soul took to the stage and you literally saw the teenager in each and every crowd member come alive. De La Soul was sure to perform only songs that had been produced by J Dilla from their outstanding catalog, they even opened their set with a special rendition of “Plug Tunin” over a J Dilla instrumental. Posdnuos was the narrator of the set as through each and every song he discussed the experience of receiving the tracks from J Dilla, and the astonishment he felt upon listening before he started writing. There were a number of bittersweet moments as he and Dave both talked about their experiences of traveling to Detroit and Los Angeles to record songs like “Stakes Is High”, “Itzowezee” and “Much More” with Dilla. They also became very transparent as they talked about Dilla being their tour guide and introducing them to Detroit heavyweights.
Before the legendary group departed the stage for evening, Dave took center stage to thank the audience, and explain to everyone we could expect more new music from them. In probably the most transparent moment of the evening, Dave went on to explain that they will always love Hip Hop and their fans, but they lacked the motivation from people like J Dilla to create new hits. He stressed to us not to be worried, but explained how they were all deeply hurt by the loss of their dear friend. Lastly, Dave asked each member of the crowd to either hold up a lighter or cellphone to show our unity before we departed back into the streets together.
It was a truly special evening that I had both the honor and privilege of being in attendance of. On behalf of the entire staff here at Smashmouth FM Radio, I would like to thank The J Dilla Foundation and the staff of Dilla Day Detroit for an experience that I will never forget. I’m already looking forward to being in Detroit in 2015!!!! In the words of our fallen Brother J Dilla, TURN IT UP!!!!