James Dewitt Yancey or J Dilla before his untimely passing in 2006 was one of hip hop’s best producers. His music helped to raise the level of hip-hop exponentially. Wednesday night at Howard Theatre they held their 8th annual DC Loves Dilla Benefit Concert in support of youth inner-city music programs.
Tonight’s concert was hosted by emcee Grap Luva and featured a gathering of hometown come ups as well as some special guests. The special guests included De La Soul, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and DJ Mick Boogie. Local guest included Oddissee, Wes Felton, Yahzarah, Wayna, Muhsinah, X.O., Substantial and Awthentik, as well as DJ Roddy Rod and DJ 2 Tone Jones.
Grap Luva got things started with a prayer-like poem in honor of Dilla. The concert was themed with the J Dilla Foundation’s progressive music movement in mind. There were a variety of instruments including keyboards, guitars, horns, drums and turntables. Grap Luva would introduce any one of the aforementioned emcees and they flowed to live renditions of Dilla classics. This was great! J Dilla being a cello player himself would appreciate his music being played live. I would consider Dilla just as much a composer as I would a producer.
Keeping progressive music in mind, the J Dilla Foundation’s mission statement is to help fund inner-city music programs and provide scholarships to students attending schools that offer a progressive music curriculum; like the Duke Ellington School of the Arts for example. Playing a musical instrument has actually been proven by Northwestern University Professor Dr. Nina Kraus to increase the brain’s neuroplasticity. This helps kids to recognize pitch and tone on a higher level which significantly increases their communication and learning skills. For more information about the J Dilla Foundation, visit www.jdillafoundation.org
In addition to the music was the art. Clever designs were displayed on HD projectors of which included a typographical portrait of J Dilla, a Charles M. Schulz inspired drawing of Dilla’s likeness as Schroeder, the piano player from “Peanuts” and my personal favorite a picture of Dilla wearing a He-Man t-shirt. The body of style, works and influences J Dilla encompassed went deep. He was able to do so much with so little just based off his music knowledge.
The rest of the concert featured an electric violin performance by Miguel. A DJ scratch solo performance by Mick Boogie and of course De La Soul who sounded great but did apologize for the delay in the release of their new album. There was a large variety of talent and performers present. Hopefully we cheered loud enough that Dilla could hear us from upstairs and if he couldn’t it’s probably because he was wearing headphones making beats. Here’s my personal tribute to Dilla.
TRR Revue and Photography By: Alan Duckworth