Thanks for the permission slip to think and dream bigger J Dilla!

Thanks for the permission slip to think and dream bigger J Dilla!

I know I’m not the target demographic and you may be thinking, huh, Barb, I did not expect this reference, but I was genuinely excited when I read that Quest Love is executive-producing a documentaryDilla Time – “part biography, part musicology, and part musical meditation” –  adapted from Dan Charnas’ book of the same name about legendary, visionary, genius artist/producer J Dilla.

He worked with artists including Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, Brand New Heavies, Heavy D, Funkmaster Flex, Q Tip, The Roots, Common, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib Kwali, Daft Punk…and he died way too young of a rare blood disease in 2006 at the age of 32.

According to The Guardian, “His affinity for crafting lengthy, melodic loops peppered with breakbeats and vocal samples took instrumental hip-hop into new, more musically complex realms…”

I was introduced to J Dilla by epic beats maker, Sma3in, who recommended I read Dilla Time and invited me to watch a Vox Doc, “How J Dilla Humanized his MPC3000.

It’s a wonderfully engaging 10 minutes that taught me what an MPC3000 is, it’s recent historical context, why humanizing a drum machine matters to this day and how J Dilla was the first to ask and act on, but what if I do this…?

…and he completely changed music.

The magic moment in the mini doc comes at 3:36 when Quest Love says:

it was the most life-changing moment I ever had…I was like, are you allowed to do that?? that, to me, was the most liberating moment…

Thank you Quest Love! Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets stuck in what’s always been, the Shoulds and limiting thinking…

How often do you think – without really thinking! – but that’s just how it is…?


You get to the important first step of asking what would make this betterWhat if tried…? and then your loudmouth Gremlin pops up to shut you down with some version of

No | You can’t | That will never work | No one wants to hear your idea | You’re not good enough

(The key to taming your Gremlin is to ask these three words is that true?)

I have no idea why a handful of us are hardwired to dream bigger and ask what if without apology – I am grateful to the person who decided paper clips didn’t have to be steel and manila folders could be pretty colors and designs – but J Dilla is now above my desk and on my nightstand as a daily reminder to stop, check in and ask. 

In the press release, Questlove said, “Explaining musical genius is my mission. To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true. Not just on me, but on an entire generation of musicians that everyone knows and loves. J Dilla was our teacher. And what he taught us was how to feel rhythm in a way we had never felt before. I’m so honored to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary.”