At the beginning of February, I got a voicemail from a reader in Atlanta, and he was mad. Maybe disappointed is the better word: “Why haven't you interviewed J Dilla?! Even Pharrell Williams will tell you that he's the best producer.” Truthfully, I am often so busy, that I rarely have time for phone calls, but I called him right back to let him know that it had been in the works.
There are plenty of things I have taken for granted over the years: oxygen, food, avoiding traffic infractions (I didn't stop at that brand-new stop sign because for the last ten years, it wasn't there, officer!). Sadly, there's something along these lines that I thought would come with time: I assumed we'd eventually sort out a story on J Dilla in Remix. Finally, I thought our chance had arrived when I got J Dilla's instrumental album, Donuts (Stones Throw), which came out on Dilla's 32nd birthday, February 7, 2006.
When I tried to set up the interview, however, I was told that J Dilla (also known as Jay Dee and James Yancey) was sick. For the past three years, he had been suffering from an incurable blood disease called TTP. But from the sound of things through the publicity grapevine, he was recovering. Then, news came from the BBE label that there was another J Dilla album on the horizon, The Shining, and we suited up for a June cover story on the respected hip-hop producer. Finally, the story I had been meaning to do for years was really in the works. Readers would finally get the full story about Dilla's production methods. But within a couple days of that first disappointed phone call from the Atlanta reader, I got a second, more disappointed call from him: He wanted to let me know that Dilla had died. At least I heard it from a person rather than from the news wires.
What can I say? I'm sorry I took you for granted, Dilla. And I'm sorry to the readers for not getting his story when we could have. For the next issue, we're working on a tribute feature on Dilla, including interviews with the collaborators and people closest to him. To the people who have written in asking for a Dilla feature or who have called to tell me I'm a moron for not doing a story on him, I'm sorry I let you down. From now on, I'll remember that procrastination can have some pretty harsh repercussions. Goodbye J Dilla — much respect to you and your family.