Every February, all around the world, parties kick off to celebrate the life and legacy of hip-hop producer James “J. Dilla” Yancey (1974-2006). Widely considered one the greatest hip-hop producers of all time, Dilla was named as both Kanye West’s and Pharrell Williams’s favorite producer. But, Dilla wasn’t just a hip-hop producer, he was also an amazing rapper. Even more, he is arguably the architect of the neo-soul sound.
With his production for Erykah Badu, Eric Roberson, and D’Angelo, J. Dilla created the spacey sound that neo-soul became known for in the late-90s and early-2000s. Here are a few of Dilla’s best R&B tracks:
Erykah Badu–“Didn’t Cha Know”
The second single from her classic album, Mama’s Gun, was nominated for a Grammy-award for Best R&B song in 2001.
Bilal “Reminisce” feat. Mos Def and Common
1st Born Second is a R&B classic debut from Bilal in 2001. The album featured the sensational hit song, “Sometimes” as well as spawned other classics. One of the album’s best songs features Mos Def and Common rapping over this beautiful Dilla instrumental.
Eric Roberson, “Pretty Girl”
A tireless writer and performer, Eric Roberson obtained the instrumental to this track prior to J. Dilla’s death in 2006. He turned it into a heart-warming love letter to women that he called, “Pretty Girl.” The song is one that he still performs regularly.
Tickets for the official celebration of Dilla’s life and legacy in his hometown of Detroit are on sale now.