In the short 32 years that James Dewitt Yancey (February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006) spent on this physical plane, before expiring from from the rare blood disorder TTP, he managed to make an indelible mark on both hip hop and the music world in general. Better known as J Dilla, Jay Dee, or simply Dilla, the Detroit-born producer earned universal acclaim as one of the most forward thinking, revolutionary, and, all around, important hip hop producers of all time, a truth punctuated by his swan song DONUTS, a masterpiece which he perfected on his death bed and released on his birthday, just 3 days before his death. An instant classic, the LP drew legions of imitators that are still trying to crack the Dilla formula, too often missing the reality that, by nature, true originality is something that can never be replicated. With his name forever carved into music history and lauded universally as an influence on everyone from your heroes to their heroes, it can be easy to forget that Yancey‘s work wasn’t always so easily embraced. Although time has been kind to his work, due to the fact that it was consistently so ahead of it, back in the 90s, when Dilla was contributing to albums by acts like De La Soul, or providing numerous beats that would inform The Pharcyde‘s, somewhat drastic, change in tone for their now-classic sophomore release, Labcabincalifornia, not everyone openly welcomed these shifts in direction. Also overshadowed by his status as a legendary super-producer is the fact that Jay Dee made his first real mark on the industry as part of the trio Slum Village, not only behind the boards, but as an incredibly capable lyricist/emcee, in his own right.
Not unlike with the premature passing of other prolific artists like Kurt Cobain and 2PAC, Dilla has had a surplus of posthumous material released over the last decade following his death, but it has, primarily, come in the form of production work, whether it be instrumental pieces, or beats that have been granted usage to other respected artists. One album that has been highly anticipated for years, however, is an LP that Yancey recorded from 2001-2002 and intended as his major label debut spitting verses as a vocal artist. Originally titled “Pay Jay,” the album was, ultimately, shelved by MCA records which hadn’t expected a straight ahead rap effort from someone that they had signed in an attempt to capitalize off of the notoriety that he had gained creating smash hits behind the scenes. The album, now titled The Diary, finally got it’s release earlier this month, including an exclusive Record Store Day vinyl with accompanying 7-inch. Recognized as the last collection of material left that was, actually, assembled during Dilla’s lifetime and which he, actually, desired to have released, the final product was resurrected from old files transferred from now-archaic programs that the producer was using at the time of its production, a necessary process that delayed it’s completion and release for years. During that time, some of the tracks were leaked, and even bootlegged on vinyl. The single “Fuck The Police” also received a special police badge picture disc vinyl treatment for last year’s Record Store Day, a full 14 years after initially appearing as a standard 12″ single in 2001. In February, 4 years after the late rapper’s recently resurrected Pay Jay Productions imprint announced that the album would be getting an official release, Queenbridge rap legend, NAS made his own announcement about The Diary being co-released by his own label, Mass Appeal label this April. The final product showcases Jay Dee rapping not only over his own production, but also on beats by notable contemporaries like Pete Rock and Hi-Tek, while including vocal contributions by rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Kokane.
Once particular track connected to The Diary features NAS with production by MADLIB, a kindred spirit to Yancey and the other half of the project JAYLIB — their Champion Sound album consisted of Madlib rapping over Dilla beats on one side, and the inverse occurring on the other. This cut, titled “The Sickness,” was originally recorded in 2001 with NAS adding his verse only last year. Besides appearing on the Mass Appeal soundcloud page, this song was only offered with pre-orders and as an iTunes exclusive, with the Japanese version of the CD being the only physical release to contain it. Today Mass Appeal release the video for “The Sickness” directed by Ruffmercy, which you can view below.
You can also purchase the iTunes edition of The Diary that includes “The Sickness” via THIS LINK.