Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Navigate Left
  • Green Wave baseball heads to the Corvallis regional after winning back-to-back conference championships

    Baseball

    Green Wave Baseball wins back-to-back conference championships, will play in Corvallis regional

  • Available supplies include, but are not limited to, syringes, tourniquets, cookers and other paraphernalia, provided to cut down on sharing within the community.

    City

    Harm reduction in New Orleans, from pavement up

  • From blues to Cajun cuisine: the best of Jazz Fest 2024

    Arcade

    From blues to Cajun cuisine: the best of Jazz Fest 2024

  • Police have found two video cameras in campus bathrooms in recent months and arrested one former employee but said the cases do not appear to be connected.

    News

    Faculty, students deliver letters condemning Tulane’s response to pro-Palestinian encampment

  • Screenshot

    Letter to the Editor

    Letter to the Editor | Tulane faculty letter concerning campus protest

  • Jack Zinsser shows face.

    Arcade

    Helluva Hubbalagoo

  • Winners announced: Arcade A+ Awards

    Arcade

    Winners announced: Arcade A+ Awards

  • Michael Pratt was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 245th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2024 NFL draft.

    Football

    Pratt, Jackson, others find landing spots in NFL

  • Letter from the Editor | In good hands

    Letter to the Editor

    Letter from the Editor | In good hands

  • Zion Williamsons injury in the NBA play-in was the final nail in the coffin for the New Orleans Pelicans season.

    Basketball

    Remembering New Orleans Pelicans: October 2023 – April 2024

  • Participants of the 2024 Tulane Student Film Festival. Courtesy of the Film Festival.

    Arcade

    Tulane hosts third annual student film festival

  • OPINION | Final exams: Are we finally done with them?

    Views

    OPINION | Final exams: Are we finally done with them?

  • OPINION | Science or not: Rethinking core curriculum

    Views

    OPINION | Science or not: Rethinking core curriculum

  • Screenshot

    Views

    Letter to the Editor | Silent killer: Why World Malaria Day matters

  • Police stand in front of protesters early Wednesday morning.

    City

    Pro-Palestinian protesters demand charges be dropped after police sweep at Tulane

Navigate Right
Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

flytedesk: Box (In-Story)
flytedesk (In-Story | Box)
flytedesk (Sidebar | Half Page)

Hip-hop figurehead J Dilla turns 50

Hip-hop+figurehead+J+Dilla+turns+50
Nathan Rich

Few musicians can lay claim to a spot on hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore. In a genre that prioritizes fluidity and introspection, it seems nearly impossible to subjectively elevate an artist to an icon. However, the late J Dilla deserves canonization. 

J Dilla, born James Dewitt Yancey, was a man of many talents. During his career, he was tabbed as a producer, drummer, rapper and songwriter. Before his unfortunate death in 2006, the artist gained a respectable following and boasted co-signs from around the music industry. Now, on the 50th anniversary of his birth, J Dilla’s legacy has blossomed into something bigger than he could have possibly imagined.

Born on Feb. 7, 1974, Yancey was surrounded by musicians in his childhood home; his mother was a former opera singer and his father was a jazz bassist. During his high school years, he took his first foray into hip-hop via rap battles with future collaborators, T3 and Baatin. During this time, Yancey simultaneously explored the world of music production and experimented with various instruments. It was then that he learned how to use the Akai MPC, a musical workstation that combined the capabilities of drum machines and samplers for efficient beat making.

With his childhood friends T3 and Baatin, Yancey, then under the name Jay Dee, formed the rap group Slum Village in 1996. The trio recorded numerous projects, earning recognition for their braggadocious lyrics laid over Dilla’s artfully crafted beats. Thanks to the success of the group, Yancey was recruited to produce for some of the biggest musicians at the end of the century. Highlights include work on Q-Tip’s album “Amplified,” The Pharcyde’s “Labcabincalifornia,” Erykah Badu’s “Mama’s Gun” and Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate.”

Story continues below advertisement

By 2001, Yancey had decided to transition into a solo career. On a slew of different labels, he released extended plays and full length albums, showcasing both his sensational rap and production abilities. His career shift also prompted a name change: to coincide with the release of his debut album “Welcome 2 Detroit,” Yancey changed his stage name from Jay Dee to J Dilla. 

In the early 21st century, J Dilla saw increased recognition around the music industry, but health problems arose that would ultimately cut his life short. He would battle the rare blood disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which forced him to remain hospitalized from time to time. While his creative output slowed, J Dilla refused to retire. Pitchfork heralded his collaborative album “Champion Sound” with producer Madlib as “one of the most exciting and inventive hip-hop productions [of 2003].” 

As Yancey’s condition declined, he devoted a considerable amount of time toward what would eventually become his last project released in his lifetime. “Donuts,” an album widely claimed to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases ever, was a triumph. It further legitimized sampling as an art form, masterfully weaving source material from multiple decades together into a tapestry of sonic emotion. Then, just three days later, James Dewitt Yancey succumbed to his illness at the age of 32.

In the years following his passing, J Dilla’s commercial work has been rereleased and his archival tracks have been unearthed and disseminated online. This reevaluation has led many to claim he is one of the greatest producers of all time. Dilla’s innovative work on his drum machine popularized many production techniques, including unquantized drums, which contributed to a more human-like feel for listeners. His knack for sample choice and chopping ensured that the records he repurposed would be done a great justice. Countless hip-hop artists have heard a track of his and felt inspired to hone their craft. Questlove, drummer for The Roots and a J Dilla collaborator, told writer Matt Brennan in the book, “Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit”, that he “invented the sound we call neo-soul.”  

Although J Dilla has departed, his legacy will undoubtedly outlive us all.

Leave a Comment

Donate to The Tulane Hullabaloo
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tulane University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The Tulane Hullabaloo
$1000
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal