Like many other hip-hop scholars, Brian “Raydar” Ellis holds J Dilla’s contributions to his beloved culture in the highest regard. So much so that as a teacher at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston he created the first ever J Dilla Ensemble, a course focused on live musicians re-interpreting and playing music from James Yancey's extensive catalog.
In case you didn’t notice, we’ve been on a Dilla groove all this week at the Plex. We kicked things off on his birthday with our list of the 50 Best Dilla songs, and followed that up by interviewing Peanut Butter Wolf about the status of new Dilla releases and talking with Dilla’s mother (affectionately known as Ma Dukes) about the estate and her big tribute concert taking place in Detroit tonight, the sixth anniversary of his passing. We even asked Chairman Mao to break down 10 facts you might not know about the legendary producer.
To wrap things up we're speaking with Raydar to learn more about the J Dilla Ensemble, their process of re-interpreting Dilla’s music using live instruments, their special relationship with Ma Dukes, and their upcoming gig on March 3 at New York City’s Harlem Stage—as part of “A Tribe Called Quest: Innovation and Legacies – A Movement in Four Parts."
Raydar also broke down what sets Dilla’s music apart from other legendary producers, how his sound played a part in the maturation of some of hip-hop’s most cherished groups, and why Dilla is so heavily respected by his peers—and how Berklee students are keeping his legacy alive.
Written by Daniel Isenberg (@stanipcus)