Originally published in Scratch magazine, February 2006
“I went through that whole thing a lot cats either go through or went to,” J-Dilla, November 2005
Much like Dilla’s life, this interview was ended way too soon. Three years later I read this and think “damn, he really was saying some real spit.” You can hear just a little bit of the frustration that J-Dilla felt as a producer despite the accolades he’s been showered with since his death. He read the reviews of his work just like you all do, and while some might not want to admit it now, those reviews weren’t always positive. Even though he’d racked up an impressive discography, he still had to cater to the artists he made beats for. And while Momma Yancey is clearly his biggest supporter, even she had some misgivings about his career choice in the beginning. So when you read this don’t just think of J-Dilla the gifted musician, remember James Dewitt Yancey the man.
Interview by Alvin “Aqua Boogie” Blanco
Aqua: What made you choose L.A. over Miami or NYC?
J-Dilla: I thought about New York but in New York the studio would get crowded with a lot of people. In LA, you look outside it’s like palm trees, sunshine and you know a totally different feel working.
You mentioned not having a bunch of people in the studio, do you like to keep it just you and the artist in the studio?
Yeah, I like to keep it to a minimum.
What part of L.A. is it?
Do you still keep a crib in Detroit?
Yeah, I still got the crib and then actually all my equipment is out there. I’m looking for a crib now so I can ship my equipment out here.
I’m assuming you got some equipment out in L.A. right?
I got just the basics. AN MPC a couple of turntables and that’s really it.
What equipment did you start with?
I started with the SP-12 then moved to the SP-1200 and then shortly after that the MPC-60, then the MPC-62, then the MPC3000 and I’ve been on the MPC 3000 ever since then. I’ve tried other samplers but the 3000 is best for me for what I like to do.
What about it specifically?
It’s just easier for me to program and I like the node offs and mono pads. I can just do more with it. I guess cause I know it better.
As far as your records are you a big digger?
Yeah man. I’m a record shopping fanatic. I already got a nice stash here and I got a warehouse full of records in Detroit, it’s ridiculous. I lost a lot of records too. Having them in that storage paper, records was getting damp and to go back periodically and check on them is kind of hard.