From the left, Peanut Butter Wolf, J. ROCC, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ma Dukes (Dilla’s mother), and Host Asya Shein.
On March 16th, 2023, Save The Music curated a star studded panel at SXSW to celebrate the life and legacy of hip-hop producer, James Yancey, better known as J Dilla.
Music enthusiasts, hip hop heads and industry professionals alike flocked to the one hour session which the Austin Chronicle featured in SXSW Music 2023: The Best Things We Saw on Thursday.
Asya Shein, Dilla’s former DJ agent and close friend, facilitated the conversation as Dilla’s inner circle shared personal stories from his life and reflected on his lasting impact on the music industry.
Ma Dukes, J Dilla’s mother, reminisced about Dilla’s early adoration for music, revealing that he had perfect pitch at just two months old. Dilla’s love for record shopping began at age two, when every Friday, he would be treated to a 45 at the local record store. This tradition ignited his deep appreciation for multiple genres of music – spanning from early classical music to James Brown.
Dilla’s passion for record digging went beyond discovering new sounds. For him, it was a ritual that brought people together and fueled his own creative fire. DJ Jazzy Jeff vividly recalled his first encounter with Dilla after he and rapper Common were inspired to reach out after hearing “I Don’t Know” on the radio. Following a one hour phone conversation, Dilla hopped on a plane to Jeff’s homebase, Philadelphia, for a record digging session which ultimately became a recurring tradition for the two legends.
This just goes to show you the love of music. I didn’t know his last name and he flew to Philly and I picked him up. The only thing that we knew is that we were going record shopping. – DJ Jazzy Jeff
Peanut Butter Wolf went on to share stories from Dilla’s StonesThrow era and his reaction to hearing the first demo of Donuts. J Rocc followed, sharing his admiration for Dilla’s technical mastery of the MPC3000 and other insights into the makings of a musical genius.
Beyond story sharing, the event spotlighted Save The Music’s plans to carry on Dilla’s legacy through the investment of music technology programs in culturally rich communities. The J Dilla Music Tech Grant aims to empower a generation of students and educators through beat making and other career pathways within the music industry. Ma Dukes, shared powerful wisdom around the importance of music education and the need for the universal investment in creative outlets for young students:
Since 2018, Save The Music’s J Dilla Music Technology grant has empowered 50 schools to provide access to music technology resources for both students and educators. In 2023, over twenty new grants will be offered to continue supporting young creators in achieving success and economic stability through music technology.
Tune in to the official recording below to learn more about this insightful and inspiring celebration of J Dilla’s life and impact.
Learn how you can help champion the Dilla legacy through the investment of music technology programs here.
From the left, J. ROCC, Host Asya Shein, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ma Dukes (Dilla’s mother), and Peanut Butter Wolf. Also featured: Hallie Cross, Director of Creative Marketing; Zack Flores, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications; Henry Donahue, Executive Director of Save The Music