‘This book is a must for everyone interested in illuminating the idea of unexplainable genius’ – QUESTLOVE
Equal parts biography, musicology, and cultural history, Dilla Time chronicles the life and legacy of J Dilla, a musical genius who transformed the sound of popular music for the twenty-first century.
He wasn’t known to mainstream audiences, and when he died at age thirty-two, he had never had a pop hit. Yet since his death, J Dilla has become a demigod, revered as one of the most important musical figures of the past hundred years. At the core of this adulation is innovation: as the producer behind some of the most influential rap and R&B acts of his day, Dilla created a new kind of musical time-feel, an accomplishment on a par with the revolutions wrought by Louis Armstrong and James Brown. Dilla and his drum machine reinvented the way musicians play.
In Dilla Time, Dan Charnas chronicles the life of James DeWitt Yancey, from his gifted Detroit childhood to his rise as a sought-after hip-hop producer to the rare blood disease that caused his premature death. He follows the people who kept Dilla and his ideas alive. And he rewinds the histories of American rhythms: from the birth of Motown soul to funk, techno, and disco. Here, music is a story of what happens when human and machine times are synthesized into something new.
This is the story of a complicated man and his machines; his family, friends, partners, and celebrity collaborators; and his undeniable legacy. Based on nearly two hundred original interviews, and filled with graphics that teach us to feel and “see” the rhythm of Dilla’s beats, Dilla Time is a book as defining and unique as J Dilla’s music itself.
Financial Times Music Book of the Year 2022