Killiam Shakespeare on Jay Dee (aka J Dilla)’s eclectic taste

Sampling is a conversation between artists.

We’ve brought that conversation to life with “Fantastic Loops,” the companion pack series to “The Fantastic Sounds of Jay Dee aka J Dilla.” We invited some of today’s greats to take sounds from the pack and make them their own. Corey and Steve of Killiam Shakespeare, the experimental-jazz-soul collective from Philly, speak on Jay Dee (aka J Dilla)’s cross-genre influences. Check out their companion pack here.

Tell us about hearing the Jay Dee pack for the first time. What kinds of sounds did it inspire? Walk us through the process of creating this companion pack. What direction you went in, what formulating ideas for it was like – give us an insight on crafting this work.

Steve: The very first time I heard Dilla was nearly 20 years ago and I remember being blown away by the style of the beats, because besides Questlove in Philly, I thought I was the only drummer who played the way Dilla made beats. I was super shocked, and happy to know a style like that existed. Creating the companion pack was easy but hard because I had so many ideas I wanted to rep of Jay Dee, but at the same time add my feel to. So, filtering the drums and layering different sounds, I tried not quantizing beats to give it that Dilla-like feel, but playing live drums with triggers of Jay Dee sounds. It was super fun.

Corey: The sounds were super crispy and had that distinctive Dilla flavor. Since he was a master of minimalism and the sounds are hitting, we didn’t want use too many layers in each loop. Jay Dee is a big influence, but we never try to sound like anyone. With these sounds, some of the stuff we came up with sounds closer to him than anything else we’ve done, hopefully in a good way.

Walk us through your personal history with Jay Dee’s music. What was the first record of his that you remember hearing? In what ways did his work influence yours?

Steve: Fantastic, Vol. 1… I remember playing in Bilal’s band – we did a show in Detroit, and went to his crib, heard some crazy beats, and Bilal was working on a new album that never got released. A song we did called “Let it Go” was very Dilla inspired from a drum beat prospective, but he offered more than just drum beats. The way he produced, and how musical he was inspired me when I would make music and gave me a feeling of being open to hearing all kinds of music, and how to apply it to making music on my own.

Corey: Most of my first experience listening to Jay Dee was listening to Tribe in middle school and high school, before I was checking out who was producing on stuff. I had a deep emotional connection with that music, which has been a constant through a lot of Jay Dee’s music. He didn’t just make fire beats, his music has a very emotional effect on people. With Voodoo (D’Angelo), Like Water for Chocolate (Common), Mama’s Gun (Erykah Badu), and 1st Born Second (Bilal), I got super into the Soulquarians’ and The Ummah’s sound. I still wasn’t checking out the credits but I was getting pulled in by everything Jay Dee was a part of. When I finally heard Welcome 2 Detroit I started connecting the dots. I still remember driving to a gig listening to that for the first time and having to pull over a few times because the music was so powerful. Jay Dee has had a profound influence on my music. His approach to leaving space, creating different textures, using synthesizers in unique ways, and more have had a huge effect on me.

Where do you think Jay Dee’s influence fits within the current landscape of music? In what ways have you seen his legacy live on through new artists today?

Steve: You can hear him in a lot of people’s music for sure. He had a distinct sound and style and it’s very much a template you can hear in the likes of Karriem Riggins and Madlib, to name a few. I think he took the art of sampling records to a level where you need to pay attention and listen to all types of music – there’s beauty in there but you have to find it. Music won’t ever die and his style won’t either. Just the way he created music alone will always be influential and on full display to kids making beats now.

Corey: Jay Dee heavily influenced a whole generation of musicians and producers, so musically his influence is everywhere. He wasn’t afraid of making stuff that was new sonically and he didn’t chase after whatever was hot or trendy, which is always needed in music.

November 9, 2018