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G&B: Apologies to Sting

It's been a blast, folks. The Worlds Most Popular Podcast is signing off. Truth to be told, there's not enough hours in the day for ...

Monday, January 26, 2009

the battle for j dilla's legacy


Thanks to Ryan for letting me know about this article. As you know, I'm a huge Dilla fan and for any huge fan of his, this is a great read. From Vibe Magazine. For the full article head over to the Stone's Throw page.



There's nothing Maureen Yancey wouldn't do for her children. But as she sits in the basement studio of her only surviving son's Los Angeles home, she struggles with the one thing she hasn't done since her firstborn, James Dewitt Yancey known in hip hop circles as Jay Dee or J Dilla - three years ago of complications from lupus. She just can't. She didn't do it when the ambulance arrived at the nearby house Dilla shared with. Common, and she didn't when they failed to revive him from cardiac arrest. She couldn't even bring herself to do it when she picked out which baseball cap she'd place by his coffin.

"When he left, I had an awful void," she says calmly. "I didn't grieve like you always think you'd grieve. I always had a joy and the strength to help others to get through it. But..." her voice trails off, hands smoothing down her jeans. "I haven't cried yet."

Still, the memories came flooding back when she flew from Detroit to visit the city where her son was buried at age 32. "I rejoiced in the fact that he wasn't sick anymore," she says, "and that he'd done what he came here to do. I do believe that. His purpose on earth was to come here and give us the music that he had in his heart and soul."

The equipment that surrounds her is Dilla's, the same gear he used to create the deceptively simple, unspeakably beautiful music that solidified his reputation as one of hip hop's greatest. As Busta Rhymes put it in 2007, "He wasn't just a producer, he was the best producer."

Many of her son's friends - Common, Busta, Erykah Badu - still call regularly, and keep her son's music in rotation. Q-Tip's latest single, "Move" (Universal Motown, 2008), was built around a Dilla beat, and her other son John Yancey, a rapper known as Illa J has released the powerful new album, Yancey Boys (Delicious Vinyl, 2008), which was produced by his big brother.

Meanwhile the 60-year-old woman everybody calls Ma Dukes faces health problems of her own, and financial challenges as well. Although numerous memorials and "benefits" were held in his name, the proceeds didn't change his family's life. Dilla left two daughters - Ja'Mya, 7, and Paige, 9 - to provide for, a sizeable IRS bill, and unresolved legal issues surrounding the use of his beats. Ma Dukes says she has never received money from her son's estate and that her plans to establish a foundation in his name were quashed by the executor of his estate. Somehow, she was not reduced to tears even after Dilla's attorney informed her that she had no legal right to use her own son's name or likeness for commercial purposes. Not even to support his family.