Does Dilla still have a lot of unreleased beats floating around?
Yes. J Rocc has everything. J Rocc is the absolute authority on everything J Dilla. I have a lot of stuff, and definitely more than most people. I get calls from other DJs all the time to give them stuff, because they get asked to do a Dilla tribute or whatever. I definitely have a lot of stuff. Madlib and J Rocc have the most, though.
So there’s plenty of material for a Donuts part two?
Oh yeah, definitely. That’s the frustrating thing—Dilla wanted to put out more material. He would always tell us how much he loved Stones Throw. He couldn’t believe we’d do videos for him and everything. Typically indie labels wouldn’t spend any money or do videos, but we were constantly creating.
I never even thought a guy like Dilla would want a video—I thought I was overstepping my boundaries to ask him to do a video. He was always at everyone else’s video shoots, like MED and Oh No. And these were all kind of unknown MCs at the time, and Dilla was right there with them, supporting and uplifting them.
Dilla wanted to put out more material. He would always tell us how much he loved Stones Throw. He couldn’t believe we’d do videos for him and everything. Typically indie labels wouldn’t spend any money or do videos, but we were constantly creating.
Actually, the Donuts album cover we used is from a photo from the MED video shoot. We took the still from the video because we didn’t really have any other pictures of him that were as good as that. [Click above to see the original Donuts demo submitted by Dilla.]
What about another Jaylib project? I’m sure Madlib could get on some of those old Dilla beats.
Well, there were Jaylib remixes that we could put out. But we’d never do another Jaylib without Dilla here. I’ve always had weird feelings about changing stuff after somebody passes away. I was in a group with an MC named Charizma in ’91, ’92, ’93. He was gunned down when he was 20 years old. Eventually I put out his album because I promised him I would. But I have no interest in doing remixes or changing things. I just felt weird about it.
Everyone has their own feelings about that, and what the right thing to do is. If you know someone well enough you can kind of guess the best way to honor their legacy, but it’s always a tricky thing. Technically it could be put together, but I personally have no interest in doing it.
And that’s why we kind of fell back after Donuts. Donuts was such a huge success and we could’ve put out The Pizza Man right after it, and capitalized on it monetarily, but I felt kind of strange about it. It was just wrong in my eyes. I’ve always battled with that.
What are some of your favorite memories of Dilla?
I started working with Dilla in ’95, through DJ Houseshoes. Houseshoes was always talking about Dilla, and I probably first heard of him around ’94—he was still Jay Dee at the time. Houseshoes would just talk about “Jay Dee, Jay Dee, Jay Dee.” I wanted to put out a record with him overseas, and we did a bootleg type of record with all of these remixes on it and this was before he’d blown up.
When I first started speaking with him again in the early 2000s, he had us out to Detroit. He picked us up and took us to the strip club and all around the city. He just showed us a great time. I felt like he was this big star, but he was treating us as the stars.
At that time he wasn’t a big enough name, so a lot of the labels passed on him—they’d just go with a bigger name or a bigger producer. But by the time he started working with Stones Throw in the early 2000s, he had blown up. He had done all the Tribe and Pharcyde stuff, The Roots were messing with him; he was doing it.
He didn’t care about going to the Grammys when he was nominated or anything—that’s just not the type of guy he was. And I feel the same way about Madlib. They just remind me so much of each other.
When I first started speaking with him again in the early 2000s, he had us out to Detroit. He picked us up and took us to the strip club and all around the city. He just showed us a great time. I felt like he was this big star, but he was treating us as the stars. That’s what I always remember about him.