By: The Enemy Staff
For the last two years, Dilla Day has provided a small beam of inspiration and creative cross-pollination for Winnipeg's artistic community in the otherwise shit month of February. As people emerge from the January slump of back-to-school, reeling Christmas debt, and the late-winter excuse for introversion (the "I've just been staying in, working on myself" [a.k.a. working on that Netflix series] defence), the nature of this celebration of J Dilla's life provides solace to a potentially depressing season. Dilla Day cements itself, through the hard work and immense energy of its performers, and the lack of similar events in Central Canada, as a grand showcase for what old people and stuffy journalism majors may collectively term "urban music". The night is an atypical marriage of rap, soul, funk, and R&B consummated by a mix of well-known performers and neophyte MCs stepping up to pay homage to a deceased god of the most important musical genre today. Never get it twisted, Dilla was and continues to be an inspiration to millions of music-makers and music-lovers, new and old (No-one Ever Really Dies). While rebellious trap music (and whatever has come after trap) continues to carve out its place in the zeitgeist, for the better, heads may find comfort in the fact that yes, the current musical landscape is multi-dimensional. And in the multi-dimensional ether, a slew of innovative, relevant artists like Flying Lotus and Knxwledge, even Rick Ross, continue to produce tributes, lift samples, and extend the afterlife of Dilla. The youth continue to discover beats and songs that blow their minds, and the world keeps on spinning.
It was our privilege to exchange words with a few of the artists taking the stage at the third (and possibly final?) Dilla Day.
(SDTW, Sleeping Giants, Dilla Day organizer)
What does "fuck the police" mean to you?
Wow. How much space do you have? I'll keep it brief. I like Dilla's version of "fuck the police" because I think it highlights plainly some real issues when it comes to police terror/corruption, and personally I can relate to parts of it. When he says the lines "Like 'I know you got drugs, I know you got guns,' And you know they mad when they can't find none, stupid!" I've had that exact experience, multiple times, so...I mean, I do have some issues with other parts of the tune, but I'll leave that for another time. But, in addition, we're not just saying "ohhh, whatever, fuck the police", we're taking a stance against a flawed system, of which the police are merely one element (denial is another element, but I digress). Honestly, it's a dope social critique more than anything. Gets the crowd hyped and involved while taking on serious issues. That's the best way. That's hip-hop after all.
The first Dilla Day was unprecedented; the second one even bigger and better. What can crowds expect from the third Dilla Day?
The third (and final) Dilla Day is just us taking the best of our previous shows, adding some new stuff, and trying to put on another unforgettable show. We appreciate all the support we've gotten from people when it comes to this event, so we just wanna continue to give them what they want, which is apparently dope rhymes over dope beats played by some dope musicians.
What's more hip-hop: Kangols or Belly?
Most definitely Kangols.
Where do you see J. Dilla's influence to art and music in 2017?
Still growing. I mean, you see his influence in music so much, and it's only continuing. Right now, we're still a generation that can identify the feel. Like, "oh, that's a Dilla feel in the drums". Soon though, generations to come aren't necessarily gonna realize where those feels come from. And that just solidifies his influence, when it's so deeply entrenched that it's just a given, as if it's always been there.
What's your favourite doughnut?
Chocolate dip. Simple but effective. Timeless yo.
Hmm…”Last Donut of the Night”
What's your go-to Dilla jam or Dilla production (i.e., a song by someone else that Dilla produced) for making a bomb Sunday morning breakfast?
I gotta say “Didn’t Cha Know”, ‘cause Badu’s my girl and the video is dope.
Who would win in a fight? Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu?
Mannnnn, what!? You guys are killing me. I don’t wanna do this to Lauryn, but I think Erykah Badu man…
How do you feel you've grown as an artist since last Dilla Day?
I feel like I’ve grown more comfortable in my abilities as an artist, which allows me to be way more comfortable and confident [when] performing live.
Jay Love Japan. Keisha Love...?
(Bari Sax, Super Duty Tough Work)
How does a love for rap influence the way you play your sax?
I fell in love with hip-hop before I fell in love with jazz, and in both genres the music is defined by the tradition and the history. When I'm playing my horn I always try to make sure that what I play feels good to the listener and is authentic to the genre, not to mention funky.
We would've loved to hear Action Bronson or WestsideGunn on a Dilla track. Who would you wanna hear on a Dilla track?
It would have been cool to hear Dilla do a track with Earl Sweatshirt and Ab-Soul, with Jesse Boykins III on the hook.
You think Gucci would kill a Dilla beat?
Nahh, Dilla's style of producing was well suited to lyricists. I don't really think of Gucci as a lyricist.
Who's more hip-hop, André 3000 in '98 or Talib Kweli in '04?
Damn, André in '98. Aquemini? Are you serious? G-funk meets reggae meets gospel meets street poetry. Come on man.