The first official J Dilla Weekend, sponsored by Ill Points, Nature Sounds, Addicted Affairs, DNA and hosted by Ma Dukes (J Dilla’s mother), took place at venues around Miami over a four-day period in early February (aka Dilla Month). The James Dewitt Yancey Foundation (formerly the J Dilla Foundation) moved its annual Dilla Day festivities from Dilla’s hometown of Detroit to Miami in favor of a warmer setting. (In other words, to avoid the obstacles Detroit’s winter weather serves up during the month of February every year).

From February 5-8, fans from across the country, and possibly even some from around the world, set up camp all over Miami to witness performances from an incredible lineup of artists, including Madlib, Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, Black Milk, Camp Lo, Slum Village, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, M-1 of dead prez, DiViNCi, Joey Bada$$, Kaytranada and more.

In addition to live shows, J Dilla Weekend “All Access Weekend Pass” holders had access to a meet and greet with some of the weekend’s talent, as well as the lovely Ma Dukes, BBQs at LMNT and The Stage, a Dilla dunk and record exchange, a “Make Em NV” beat battle and a producer panel. [Listen to an audio recording of the panel discussion here.]

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Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble was lucky enough to find herself in South Florida for the festivities and snagged interviews with DJ Brian Jones, Ao Logics of Miami-based band ArtOfficial, DiViNCi of Orlando-based hip hop group, Solillaquists of Sound, and Young RJ to get their thoughts on J Dilla Weekend and how the late producer continues to influence their work. Check ‘em out below!

All photos by Steve Cucinotta (thecharisculture.com) unless otherwise noted. You can see more photos taken at J Dilla Weekend events here.

DJ Brian Jones

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How did you become involved with Dilla Weekend?

It was pretty quick and simple. Devin from Nature Sounds hit me up about DJing for Dilla Weekend. I think before he even finished the question, I said yes.

When/how did Dilla come into your life?

Before I even knew it, actually. It took me until hearing Fantastic Vol. 2 for the first time to realize that Dilla had pretty much produced all of my favorite joints. You know the scene in Usual Suspects where the cop realizes who Keyser Soze is, and he’s dropping his coffee in slow motion? That was me on my first listening of that album—realizing that most of my favorite songs up to that point had been produced by him.

What are your thoughts on Miami as the setting for Dilla Weekend?

Dilla Weekend being here wasn’t something you’d first expect, but I think Miami repped itself well. The amount of love and energy at every one of the events was awesome. There are so many talented artists and DJs in this city, and it was great to see them all do their thing.

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What does Dilla’s legacy mean to you?

It’s just the timelessness of his music. Throughout the whole weekend, what stood out to me were how many kids I saw. The fact that kids right now are feeling his music in a genuine way, in spite of the crap that’s constantly shoved in their ears, tells you all you need to know about Dilla’s legacy.

How has Dilla’s style influenced you as an artist?

It made me curious about other music out there. The stuff that he’d sample was just crazy. It was so unexpected. It really widened my perspective musically.

Also, unquantized drums!

DJ Brian Jones with Ma Dukes

Do you have any current projects that you’d like to promote?

I got a few mixtapes I’m working on with DJ Rob Riggs. I’m also looking forward to doing something special with The Rukus crew out in Tampa. Other than that, you’ll find me DJing at The Wood or somewhere else in Miami.

Anything else to add?

Just wanted to say thanks to Devin and Nature Sounds for bringing Dilla Weekend to Miami. Let’s do it again next year.

Ao Logics 

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How did you become involved with Dilla Weekend?

Um, I showed up. Nah. My band ArtOfficial got asked to perform for the night that Talib Kweli and Black Milk were playing. I’m a lifelong Dilla fan. I love all the De La Soul shit to The Pharcyde shit. I love all the old stuff to the new, so it was a no-brainer. I’m not really a three-day festival type person, but I bought the three-day festival band because I had to be here every day for every event.

When did Dilla come into your life?

Probably before I knew it. One of my favorite groups and favorite sounds is The Pharcyde, and De La Soul’s Stakes Is High. And so, I was hearing Dilla before I knew who Dilla was. And also Beats, Rhymes and Life from A Tribe Called Quest. I didn’t know. I was younger. I always loved hip-hop, but I wasn’t into it like that, so by mistake really.

What are your thoughts on Miami as the setting for Dilla Weekend?

I’ll be honest with you. I think it’s kind of strange, but I’m glad it’s here. It’s a great idea. We have pretty great weather all year round. I was hearing they had trouble in Detroit because of the weather, so I mean I’m glad they brought it here, and I hope they keep bringing it. It seems like it was a successful week. I’ve been to all the shows. They’ve all been packed.

So, I hope that they bring kind of like the foundation of Dilla like a Q-Tip or like a De La Soul. I know De La Soul spends a lot of time down here. So, I’m hoping to see some of that and maybe some of the future shit like Flying Lotus and stuff that came after Dilla.

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What does Dilla’s legacy mean to you?

To me, it means a radical change in music. The influence has gone so far out that people don’t even know. Even the Trap stuff we listen to has a laidback vibe to it now. Everything has this bounce to it that Dilla, I don’t know if he originated it, but he was one of the first to do this kind of drunken bounce type of style of beat. And it’s permeated to the L.A. beat scene to the Flying Lotus stuff to all the stuff that’s going on over there with that. And like I said, even the popular Trap stuff. It’s crazy. It’s changed the pace and the rhythm and the feel of a lot of music from more swift to more laidback, drunk stuff. People don’t even notice. You know?

How does Dilla’s style influence you as an artist?

Me? It’s hard to explain because, like I said, I didn’t even know I was listening to Dilla at first. I love this shit. I love it with all my heart. And then I find out it’s Dilla doing this stuff, and it affects the music I make personally and as a band because we incorporate that feel, that kind of laidback drunken—even with the live band, the Dilla influence is so crazy that drummers have learned how to play this drunken drum machine style.

And you have people like Chris Dave who plays with D’Angelo and plays with Robert Glasper, and they’ve incorporated this laidback sound that came from a guy on a drum machine. It’s crazy. To me, it’s influenced the sound. It’s a great foundation to pick ideas from. I can’t even speak on it. It’s super influential, even on a subconscious level.

Do you have any current projects you want to promote?

My group ArtOfficial, we have an EP called Knives that’s been out for a couple months. You can check that out on iTunes or Spotify or whatever you like listening to music on. I personally do some production, kind of leftfield hip-hop-based stuff. You can check it out on aologics.com. I have a project coming out called Hell Is Empty, and that will be out in a month and a half. Check that out, too. That’ll be free. And it’s going to be some crazy, funky but still very hip-hop-based stuff on there.

DiViNCi

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All DiViNCi Photos: Wesner Fleurima

How did you become involved with Dilla Weekend?

Sasha, who was putting together the beat battle, contacted me to see if I would judge and do a performance.  She knows of my involvement in the beat scene, as well as my fundraising efforts for Ma Dukes in the past.  Eventually, the opportunity expanded into also being invited to take part in the Producer’s Panel with Pete Rock, Statik Selektah, Black Milk & Young RJ (also judges for the battle).

When/how did Dilla come into your life?

Like most people, Dilla’s work on A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde & Busta Rhymes projects were some of the first times I can remember hearing his work.  It wasn’t until I say his name on Pharcyde’s “Drop” maxi single that I was like, “Hmm Jay Dee?  I know that’s not the other JD (Jermaine Dupri), I really like this Jay Dee.”  But his brilliance really dawned on me with Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2.

What are your thoughts on Miami as the setting for Dilla Weekend? 

First of all, I love it because it’s so close to me, being that I live in Orlando.  But on another note, it’s nice to see that subculture of hip-hop represented down there.  It brought out a crowd I’m not used to seeing when I visit Miami and makes me want to go back.

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What does Dilla’s legacy mean to you?

Dilla’s legacy is really special to me for a bunch of reasons.  For one, his music continues to bring people together in the way that hip-hop did at its peak.  Whenever I’m at a Dilla event or a Dilla track comes on, a strong sense of community emerges that can be felt and seen.  It’s always really comforting and inspiring to see that happen.

His legacy as a creator is special to me because he always followed his own path and expressed his artistic voice consistently, even when that voice transformed to create a new style.  He expressed himself constantly and perfectly, creating a sound that was all his own, and that sound remains great.  This greatness continues to influence a lot of people, but I think a lot of people miss the point and just try to emulate his sound.

To me, you do the world an injustice if you don’t figure out how to express what uniquely makes you great and share that abundantly.  All of the greats figured out how to share their gifts in a way only they could.  That’s what Dilla did, and the world is better because of it.

How has Dilla’s style influenced you as an artist?

His music gave me hope and inspiration in a time when a lot of music didn’t.  His always innovative and meticulous creative process constantly piqued my intellectual mind just as consistently as his music moved me physically and emotionally. His art blended the technical and visceral in ways I hadn’t experienced before from other artists.

His music is so soaked in creativity that it felt like I was making music whenever I listened to it and often would inspire me to get right back to work as soon as his song was over.  To put it simply, his style set new standards for how I feel when listening to music, and this became the standard I shoot for in how I make others feel when they listen to mine.

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Do you have any current projects that you’d like to promote?

I’m currently working with my group Solillaquists of Sound and Ms. Lauryn Hill on new studio projects while touring the world doing workshops and solo performances.

Young RJ

Young RJ

How did you become involved with Dilla Weekend?

We became involved about two years ago. They had been doing it in Detroit, but they kind of wanted to take it to the next level. And by us knowing, and working with Dilla so much, and Slum Village, that we kind of knew what it was that they wanted.

So, that’s when we saw De La Soul and Pete Rock vs Premier and all that pop up, and that was the first year that we got involved with it. This year, we felt like we wanted to bring it to where there was better weather. In Detroit, every year on his birthday, it’s a fucking blizzard.

And people have trouble getting there….

Yeah, and why not come get a vacation on top of getting your hip-hop? So, that’s what we’re doing with it now.

When did Dilla come into your life?

When I was six years old. I had a group in 1992. The name of the group was called KidJeNot. Dilla, which was Slum Village at the time…we were all signed to the same label, and that’s when I met Dilla and T3. Baatin was somewhere around. He wasn’t officially in the group. Well, he had kind of left the group because of some street stuff he was in, and they put him out the group. That’s a whole other story.

So, then he came back in, and they were using the studio. We ended up shutting the studio down, and we moved the studio into our house in the living room. Dilla would come over and make beats in the living room, so I would come home from school and see Dilla making beats in the living room.

And then from there, as I got older, I started making beats, and when I played him some tracks I had did for Kurupt, he was like, “Yo, you actually dope.” And I was like, “For real? You really like this shit?”

So, after that, he took me under his wing, and I helped him finish up “Climax” -well, he asked me to assist him. You know what I’m saying? I’m not…it’s to be debated. But from there, it became a mentorship.

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What’s your favorite memory of Dilla?

How meticulous he was. Just how laidback he was and humble and how talented he was. He could take anything and make something out if it, and that’s what made him a genius. So, you could say, “Make a beat out of ‘Jam On It’ bass line,” and he could make a beat out of “Jam On It” bass line, and you gonna be like, “Damn, it was sweet.” So, that’s what made Dilla so special to me and why everybody else is here and why you see thousands of people come out for Dilla Weekend.

What are your thoughts on Miami as a setting for J Dilla Weekend?

The venues is dope. One thing I noticed is that there are no record shops. They say that’s all shut down. So, I think by that happening, they have a greater appreciation for real hip-hop. So, that’s my impression on Miami.

What does Dilla’s legacy mean to you?

It means greatness. You’re talking about somebody that came from the inner city hood of Detroit, Conant Gardens, and inspired a cultural change. He changed music. And that’s something that’s special and difficult to do. And not only that, he worked with everybody. He didn’t care if you were N*Sync, Madonna. If he didn’t want to do it, he wasn’t going to do it, and he just didn’t do stuff for the money. And that’s what kept his brand intact, to me.

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How has his style influenced you as an artist?

How could it not influence me? You’re talking about somebody who taught me and set me up to make a legacy and continue the legacy after he passed. So, you know, everything you hear us do is inspired Dilla-wise.

Do you have any current projects you want to promote?

Yeah, we’ve got the new Slum Village album coming out late April/May – 90% is unheard Dilla beats. I did the rest. It’s dope. We got De La on there, BJ the Chicago Kid, Bilal, Phife, Black Milk, Jon Connor. It’s a lot of people on there. We’re working on a couple more features before we turn it in. We’re coming with that Dirty Slums 3 this year. Next year, we’re dropping solos. Look out for Illa’s new record that he’s about to come out with. So, that’s what’s up.

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