by Mike Saunders
Friday February 10th in Detroit was a celebration of J Dilla, the innovative producer and MC who was the man behind the beats for Slum Village and who collaborated with artists like Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde and Janet Jackson. He had a very unique and often experimental sound. His instrumental album Donuts continues to inspire producers and rappers alike. J Dilla’s life was cut short by his battle with lupus but he left behind a legacy that touched lives worldwide.
The show at the Filmore was in support of the J Dilla Foundation, who’s mission is to help fund inner-city music programs and provide scholarships to students attending schools that have progressive music curricula. The night itself was a who’s who in Detroit Hip Hop. There were performances by The Nick Speed Orchestra, Fat Ray, Amp Fiddler, Boldy James, Chuck Inglish, Asher Roth, Guilty Simpson, Moe Dirdee, Dopehead, Danny Brown and Slum Village. There were also speeches by Clarence Benjamin Jones, who was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s lawyer and speechwriter. He spoke about Hip Hop as a form of artistic expression that has revolutionary potential. He said that young artists should not be ashamed to share their reality, no matter how unpleasant or looked down upon that reality may be. State Senator Bert Johnson was also there to honor Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey (J Dilla’s mother) officially proclaiming Feb 10th Dilla Day.
The whole show had some fantastic performances. There were break dancers and interpretive dancers with The Nick Speed Orchestra. Moe Dirdee’s “You Don’t Belong In Detroit” was truly bangin, Danny Brown and Dopehead raged on stage, with a very high energy set. The night was closed out by Slum Village with classics like “Raise It Up” and “Fuck The Police”. Rest in Peace J-Dilla!
About the author: Mike Saunders is a music writer, DJ, and concert promoter based in Grand Rapids, MI. He is a contributing editor of #offthegrid as well as our resident expert in hip hop and Middle Eastern politics