It’s a Celebration! J Dilla: 5 Years Later – The Remixes
J Dilla Week, Day 3
Good morn’ or evening, friends. J Dilla Week on The Well-Dressed Headphone Addict Music Blog continues. So far, we covered the hits, and the obscure. Today for forge ahead to another side of the late James Yancey’s production genius, continuing our daily focus on different themes of his work:
February 7th: The Hits
February 8th: The Rare
February 9th: The Remixes
February 10th: Solo Beats
February 11th: A.D. (After Dilla)
Day 3 – The Remixes
The definition of a remix is to alter the master recording of a track by adding or subtraction elements of the original. With time, the term remix has evolved into simply anything that’s alternative from the original song, whether it’s simply adding a singer or rapper to the original arrangement, or recording a completely different song all together. Artists like P. Diddy and R. Kelly have been notorious advocates of the remix throughout their careers, but Jay Dee’s alternate compositions have a way injecting its aura into vocals that were already recorded. In short, a Dilla remix is like a second original rather than an alternative; not a remix, but a reimagining. Listen to the differences yourself, and you’ll agree:
“One Little Indian (Jay Dee’s Hit Remix)” – Little Indian, 1995
J-Dilla did the remix for this song in 1995. He removes the keyboards from the original to put the spotlight on the vocals more. This would become an idiosyncratic trait of Jay Dee’s remixing: to make the voices the heart of the record and build the rhythm around it.
“Me & Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine (Dilla Remix) – D’Angelo, 1995
D’Angelo and Jay Dee would join forces as members of the Soulquarians crew, but before that, he gave his remix treatment to D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar single, “Me & Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine.” Considering D’Angelo’s prowess on every instrument of the original, Dilla made sure to keep the “boom bap” of his version very clean, with a descending bass line and atmospheric electric rhodes chords.
“Sometimes (The Ummah Remix Featuring Q-Tip)” – The Brand New Heavies, 1997
The Brand New Heavies were one of Acid-Jazz’s brightest stars on the pop scene in the late 1980s, but by the mid-1990’s, lead singer N’Dea Davenport departed the band. R&B veteran Siedah Garrett (“Don’t Look Any Further,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”) stepped in the BNH released “Sometimes,” prompted Dilla, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to put their remix stamp on the single.
“Got ‘Til It’s Gone (Jay Dee’s Revenge Remix)” – Janet Jackson, 1997
In 1997, Janet Jackson released her number 1 album The Velvet Rope. The first single, “Got Til It’s Gone” was credited as being produced by Jackson’s long time producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, however Dilla and Q-Tip contended that The Ummah actually produced the original version, as it features some of J Dilla’s signature drum programming and sample placement (Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi). Jam and Lewis went on to receive a Grammy Award for the song, but The Ummah dropped the Jay Dee’s Revenge Remix, leaving little doubt who created this beat.
“Without You (Jay Dee Remix)” – Lucy Pearl, 2001
As a result of three big name music groups dissolving, Raphael Saadiq of Tony Toni Tone, Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and Dawn Robinson of En Vogue formed Super Group Lucy Pearl to record their one-off self-titled LP. The album included funky instrumentation and soulful hooks, not to mention aggresive production. Jay Dee, familiar with Muhammad from The Ummah, and Saadiq with The Soulquarians, remixed the track “Without You,” making an originally pop sounding song into a gritty confessional.
“Fanatic (Dilla’s Remix) – Vivian Green, 2003
Vivian Green was another product of the Philadelphia Neo-Soul scene that was dominating radio at the turn of the century. Her debut album, A Love Story, went Gold, thanks to it’s single “Emotional Rollercoaster,” but the remainder of the album contained smooth sounds a la Amel Larrieux and Heather Headley, but contained a more defiant vocal delivery from Green, no more evident than in the CD’s second single “Fanatic.” The track was remixed by Jay Dee, giving it sonic bite to match Green’s confident singing.
Tomorrow: The Solo Beats – Jay Dee lets his music speak for itself with his solo releases, including Welcome 2 Detroit and Donuts.
Thank you for reading, and always remember: Black Americans may only be one tenth of America’s population, but that tenth is talented.