Detroit producer James “J-Dilla” Yancey represented many things for fans of underground hip-hop. Still today, the gifted beatsmith’s use of bombastic drums can make your head nod ’til your neck breaks.
Crate-diggers love Dilla because he could take a oft-sampled beat and flip it in a new way. By the time you heard his version of the song, the sample was unrecognizable. “EVERYTHING IN THIS BEAT HAS BEEN USED BY EVERYBODY – SERIOUSLY!” Dilla wrote in the liner notes of his 2001 debut, Welcome 2 Detroit, in reference to the song “Give It Up.”
Dilla died in 2006 from complications of lupus, sending shock waves through the underground-rap circuit. It also had a great effect on D.C. promoter Brent “Munch” Joseph and drummer/producer Jon Laine, an unabashed Dilla fanatic. “For me, it was a no-brainer,” Joseph says of the tributes they’ve organized since June 2006.
On Saturday, Joseph, Laine, and many others will host the D.C. area’s seventh annual Dilla tribute at Fillmore Silver Spring. On the bill are singers Maimouna Youssef, Carolyn Malachi, and YahZarah, and MCs like Javier Starks and Awthentik. At the show, the artists will perform J-Dilla covers with Laine and his band interpreting the music. 2-Tone Jones will serve as the house DJ.
According to Joseph, the Dilla show will culminate with performances by Dilla collaborators Slum Village, Frank Nitt, and Guilty Simpson. There will also be a special performance by The Robert Glasper Experiment, whose recent album Black Radio is a bold take on jazz, rock, and hip-hop. “We always try to top ourselves in some degree,” Joseph says. “We want to do something that’s worthy of [Dilla’s] legacy, but something you feel as well.”
The Fillmore is located at 8656 Colesville Road in Silver Spring. Tickets are $27. Doors open at 9 p.m.