There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about J Dilla and the influence his life and work have had on a whole generation of beatsmiths, artists, and lovers of music. It’s a shame it took so long for him to get his propers but 3 years later the hip-hop community has shown time and again that they’ve been able to create positivity out of tragedy in their celebration of him.
This past Sunday, musicians and fans paid tribute to Jay (and his mother Maureen Yancey a.k.a. Ma Dukes) at the Suite for Ma Dukes, part of the Timeless Concert Series by VTech in association with Mochilla and ArtDontSleep. L.A’s hip-hop intelligentsia showed up in their funky Sunday best. The crowd consisted of a veritable who’s who of the L.A. hip-hop scene including folks from the Stonesthrow, Plug Research, Ubiquity, and Poo-Bah camps (to name a few). Houseshoes and J-Rocc, both close friends of Jay, got the party started with a couple of great Dilla-inspired DJ sets…
Arranged, directed, and conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, the Suite for Ma Dukes was performed by a 40-piece orchestra and a host of surprise guests. The first half was essentially a live performance of their E.P. which includes beautiful renditions of Find A Way, Fall In Love, and Nag Champa. The second set was closer to the classic hip hop show format, which I sensed was a welcome change from many in the crowd that were itching to throw their hands up and say “ohhh!” Some highlights: Karriem Riggins (!) nailed Dilla’s trademark delayed claps on the drums. Ma Dukes, Illa J (current torch-bearer of the Yancey family musical legacy), and Common (in a tux, probably from the Oscar’s a few miles away) came out to share some words with the crowd. Amp Fiddler, Dwele, and Bilal KILLED it on vocals. And for the finale, the orchestra broke into “Stakes is High.” I joked with a friend that De La would come out… then, sure enough, Posdnuos ran out on stage yellin’ “THE INSTAMATIC FOCAL POINT BRINGIN’ DAMAGE TO YA BURROUGHS…” and of course the place went off. As if that weren’t enough, Talib Kweli came out and handled verse 2. Yeah… it was nuts.
For the last few years, there has been something of a musical renaissance in the eastside of L.A. Though this movement is hard to classify because it draws from so many different sounds (genres are sooo 2003), you don’t have to listen hard to hear Dilla’s influence. Those that frequent the Low End Theory and the summertime Do-Over know what’s up. For the uninitiated, the From L.A. With Love compilation and Flying Lotus’ Los Angeles and L.A. E.P.’s are a good primer. This community has coalesced in large part during their mourning/celebration of Dilla and this event felt like the culmination of that.
Like most Angelenos, I have a love/hate relationship with this city. On Sunday night it was all love.
Here are some songs that were played that night including one of my favorite Dilla samples, Saudade Vem Correndo, but please PLEASE cop the EP (available now on iTunes) and DVD (when it drops) by Mochilla. Trust me.
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson & Carlos Nino - Find A Way
Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa - Saudade Vem Correndo