J Dilla’s legacy preserved in the Smithsonian
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
James “J Dilla” Yancey, the late Detroit music producer whose stardom has grown globally since his passing in 2006, is headed toward enshrinement in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Dilla’s mother Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, announced the news at the ninth annual “D.C. Loves Dilla” event on July 17.
The legendary hip hop musician will be represented in the museum by his MPC beat machine and his custom Moog synthesizer.
“It’s a beginning,” said Yancey on stage during the Howard Theater tribute concert that featured N’Dea Davenport, Maimouna Youssef and Pharoahe Monch, “and (there’s) so much more to come now that I’ve been practicing what I’ve been preaching to you guys: That when you’re given something special, it’s made to like, love, share. Love is not made to put in your pocket or your home, it’s for sharing. And gifts are made for sharing. So we’re going to share the equipment.”
Yancey introduced the audience to Timothy Anne Burnside of the Smithsonian Museum, who worked with the longtime Conant Gardens, Detroit resident to secure the contribution of the equipment.
“On behalf of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and from the bottom of my heart, we want to thank you for sharing your son’ legacy with us and for trusting us to share it with the world,” said Burnside.
She stated the two items donated “will be used to tell not just Dilla’s story and not just the story of hip hop, but through it will be a story of creativity, of innovation, of perseverance and of dedication.”
The Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has a tentative opening schedule of late 2015 to early 2016. As part of the Smithsonian Institute, the museum will be a part of the world’s largest art, culture and research complex.
“This museum is the final jewel in the crown in the Smithsonian Museum on the (National) Mall,” said Burnside. “This museum will celebrate African American history and culture through every possible lens, through every experience, through history, through politics, through music, through art, through dance, through fashion, spoken word — you name it, it will be there.
“And I’m here to announce today, that also there, when you walk though those doors will be Dilla.”
J Dilla was long considered a master of hip hop production in Detroit, working with many Detroit hip hop artists from an early age, including Slum Village, Phat Kat, 5 Elementz and others. From his basement studio in his mother’s house in Conant Gardens, he would go on to work with Erykah Badu, Common, The Roots, Pete Rock and A Tribe Called Quest, before finally leaving for Los Angeles.
The donated equipment includes the Akai MPC 3000, a popular sample and beat sequencing machine for music producers, and a Moog “Minimoog Voyager” synthesizer, custom made by the brand’s creator Dr. Robert Moog, a prize of his collection received late in his career while J Dilla struggled with his health.