Thelonious Martin on the legacy of Jay Dee (aka J Dilla)

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. Combining soul with a modern hip hop twist, Thelonious Martin has produced for the likes of A$AP Rocky and Mac Miller, and owes quite a bit to the legacy of Jay Dee (aka J Dilla). We sat down to speak with him about creating his companion pack, how he’s been influenced, and more.

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.

The Jay Dee pack was refreshing and versatile without being oversaturated. I’ve tried many kits before, but this one is really clean. It allowed me to get a lot of swing in my drums. I like to not quantize my kicks and hi hats – honestly a majority of my drums aren’t quantized so I need some really crisp drums to create that pocket with bounce.

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?

My mom was into the Soulquarians heavy before I had even known who Jay Dee was – she’d play Erykah, D’Angelo, The Roots, etc. I loved it but what really set it off is when I discovered it for myself.

It wasn’t until I was watching Adult Swim and they were playing “Donuts” during the bumps that the “aw shit” moment happened where I knew I wanted to make beats. It was the Motherlode flip, the outro to “Donuts” that I heard – that shit was life-changing.

Immediately his production style influenced how I chose samples. The moment I learned how to get my drums to have swing and took the training wheels off, it came full circle.

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?

Jay Dee’s influence is forever – the whole lo-fi production is essentially predicated on his sound. You can see his influence in Soulection and other crews. That certain level of quality and love for the music isn’t something that gets phased out or fades away. When it comes to producers, and especially for the city of Detroit, you’ll have to always mention his name.

November 6, 2018