DJ Alykhan Pays Tribute to Hip-Hop Pioneer J Dilla

DJ Alykhan gives a sweet Q&A about his "Dilla Day" tribute performance tonight! Included is info about the performance and an inside look on his thoughts on the hip-hop pioneer.

DJ Alykhan Pays Tribute to Hip-Hop Pioneer J Dilla

From Alykhan:

Eastman Jazz Students collide with Rochester’s most talented MC’s at Dilla Day Roc – a live-band tribute to hip-hop legend and jazz pioneer J.Dilla.  The event (Saturday October 1st at the Bug Jar) will feature interpretations of Dilla classics with a distinctly local flavor.  DJ Alykhan (and friends) open and close the show.  There will be gourmet donuts by the Roc Donut King, Dilla-themed street art, and other ‘fan-tas-tic’ surprises throughout the night.  The memories made at this event will be talked about for years to come.

 Info & Tix: 9pm, October 1st at the Bug Jar.

In your own words, tell us the story of JDilla.

James DeWitt Yancey is without a doubt one of the most influential producers and musicians of all time.  While his global influence on Hip-Hop cannot be understated, he’s also considered to be a pioneer of jazz and historian of rare funk, soul, and psychedelic grooves.  He passed away due to complications with lupus in 2006 but his legacy lives on through his music, the unique production techniques that came to define his sound, and charitable work in his hometown of Detroit.  My understanding of his story and struggle is limited to what has entered the public domain.  I couldn’t do it justice in the time allotted for this interview, but picking up 2003’s “Champion Sounds” album & Slum Village’s Fan-Tas-Tic v.1 (1997) would be a good place to start.  Here’s some light reading, too:

Why was he so influential? 

It’s not hyperbole to say that anyone who respects hip-hop reveres Dilla. Hip-Hop, as a social and political movement, grew out of the bubbling youth-led subcultures in NYC.  As a genre of music, it evolved from all the prevalent genres that preceded it. Thanks to the art of turntablism – and later analog & digital sampling – Hip-Hop music was, by its very nature, the amalgamation of all things funky and poly-rhythmic from around the world.  Hip-Hop didn’t become global – it was global from its inception. This is due, in part, due to the art of sampling.

Through his musicianship and ear for insanely creative sampling, Dilla transformed a time-honored technique of creative reconstruction into a sound that came to define not only his work, but an entire generation of artists that are celebrated as pioneers of their respective movements.  From the Native Tongues to the Soulquarians and beyond, Dilla’s beats transcended geography at a time where regional tastes reigned supreme.

A few examples of his collaborative endeavors: Don’t Cha Know Erykah Badu, The Light by Common, Runnin – The Pharcyde, to name a few.  *(perhaps you want to youtube hyperlink these?)

On Dilla & Jazz:

This is an entire encyclopedia that has yet to be written – but I suppose peeping his credits on WhoSampled will provide an overview.  It’s no secret that Dilla was a Jazz connoisseur.  I don’t even know where to start with this question! But here’s a neat factoid with local relevance:

One of Dilla’s most celebrated productions is the Slum Village track “Fall in Love”.  It’s a head-nodding joint with great depth – perhaps that has to do with its key – A# minor – or the fact that it features a gritty drum loop overlaid with a mystic bass-led melody you can’t help but feel drawn towards. The original sample “Fall in Love” is a sultry yet grand tune – “Diana in the Autumn Wind” by Rochester native Gap Mangione. While he has, and continues to enjoy great success and recognition in Jazz circles, it wasn’t until Dilla sampled him that his work was on the radar of hip-hop heads.  Being sampled by J.Dilla elevated Gap’s records to crate-digger “gold” and his catalog continues to be revered and combed over by the beat-making community.  “Diana in the Autumn Wind” has remained one Gap’s most sampled tunes.  In fact, on his breakout album – the critically acclaimed Acid Rain – Chance the Rapper catapulted “Fall in Love” and “Diana in the Autumn Wind” front-and-center for a whole new generation of music lovers on “Everybody’s Somebody”.  Cool, right?

Why do you want to pay tribute to him?

I respect and value Dilla’s music and the vision he had for his production and the artists he worked with.  His music has sound-tracked so many pivotal moments in my life and the lives of others.  I seriously considered doing this night with just DJ’s – paying tribute to his music in its purest, unadulterated form.  However, Dilla is special to me because I am fascinated by the way he relentlessly pursued abstraction.  You can instantly tell when something has a ‘Dilla vibe’ because his abstract fingerprint is so iconic. What better way to celebrate the way Dilla has expanded our collective creativity than by recruiting top-notch jazz players to re-interpret his most legendary tunes? To top it off, let’s add some Rochester flavor by inviting local MC’s to rock alongside the band? As a DJ and turntablist, my creativity tends to be limited to ‘found’ material whereas having live instrumentation – a drummer, upright bass, and Rhodes piano in addition to a DJ unleashes a level of improvisation and raw energy that’s difficult to put into words.

You have a ton of sponsorships for this. How did you manage to nab all of these connections and partnerships?

I’ve been lucky to work and partner with some truly amazing people and organizations during my time in Rochester. These are folks that see the inherent value in collaboration. Building a brand and building community are not necessarily the same thing, although they are often conflated as such. I’m interested in working with folks who value community. Dilla Day Roc is, at one level, a live-band hip-hop show. But beyond that, I sincerely hope it will serve as a catalyst for like-minded creatives to build, collaborate, and grow our local scene.

Major gratitude to Mike and the amazing crew of admin volunteers and DJ’s over at WAYO 1043. WAYO is the voice of the people, and we couldn’t undertake a project of this magnitude without them. Ian from WallTherapy deserves his own Wikipedia page for the amount of amazing work he’s done – and continues to do – but I’m especially grateful for his invaluable consultation and advice over these past couple of months.

I often confront this new-age brand-first mentality that values ultra-curated social media over talent and collaboration. Working in a silo might net you instant fame but rarely sustains your momentum. I’m from Philly. “Staying in your lane” isn’t a mantra where I’m from; it’s cautionary advice at best.  In my experience, the most memorable events I’ve been a part of have been collaborative at their core.  Collaborative karma is a real thing and the goodwill it generates is ten-fold. I find the energy collaboration generates affirming and empowering.

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