James “J Dilla” Yancey would be celebrating his 39th birthday today had he not tragically passed away on Feb. 10, 2006 due to complications related to Lupus. The proud Detroit native remains one of the most talented and versatile artists of our time, as he showcased his abilities to rap, sing, DJ, compose, and play multiple instruments over his legendary career.
Today, on his birthday, we’re taking a look back at 20 of our favorite Dilla beats of all time. Making this list was extremely difficult, to say the least. Among our team, we continued to throw out track after track in attempt to narrow a list down to 20, when we could have easily pushed it to 50 or even 100. We really wanted to show off his aforementioned versatility, which led Dilla to work with artists both within and well outside of his tightly knit circle.
In the coming weeks, we plan on putting together more tributes to Dilla, including a highlight of his remixes, how one of our writers came to truly appreciate his music, and much more. But for now, raise it up and enjoy 20 of his finest productions.