Dilla Time and 50 Years of Hip-Hop

dilla time book cover

Hip-hop turned 50 years old this year (August 11, 1973, is considered it’s birthday). My relationship with hip-hop started 30 years ago, but, like Common says, it’s the (longest) love of my life.

There has been a lot going on to celebrate hip-hop this year. Here are some of my favorites.

Dilla Time

I’ve read a couple of hip-hop books this year (the year of reading!) that have made an impression on me: Sweat the Technique by Rakim (which I wrote about here) and Dilla Time by Dan Charnas, which chronicles the musical journey of James Dewitt Yancey, a hip-hop producer who reinvented rhythm and influenced many genres of music. It traces his childhood in Detroit, his collaborations with artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Common, and Madlib, and his rare blood disease that caused his premature death in 2006.

Dilla produced many tracks on two of my favorite albums of all time (Midnight Mauraders and Labcabincalifornia) and countless others, which I didn’t realize until much, much later. Crazy to learn about all the common Dilla threads through so much music I love.

Sampling in Hip-Hop

Check out Sample Breakdown: The Most Iconic Hip-Hop Sample of Every Year (1973-2023). The visualizations get better as the video plays and time passes (and sampling gets more complex). At the 18min mark is one of Dilla’s classics and shows just how crazy it is in terms of its sampling (via kottke.org):

And check out this excellent piece by Dan Charnas (author of Dilla Time above) about sampling in hip-hop: De La Soul streaming: It’s time to legalize sampling. (slate.com)

KEXP’s 50 Years of Hip-Hop

The best radio station on the planet has been visiting a different year of hip-hop history each Wednesday, and has a weekly 50 Years of Hip-Hop podcast that’s been crazy good, like the one on the Soulquarians.

NPRs Rap At the Tiny Desk

NPR has also been running a massive Hip-Hop 50 feature this year. I’ve enjoyed looking at all the different scenes in various cities in All Rap Is Local: A city-by-city guide to hip-hop’s first half-century and, of course, Rap at the Tiny Desk:

Amerigo Gazaway’s 50th Anniversary Mixtape

A 50 minute blend of b-sides, mashups, and rarities from the mashup king. Some of these tracks I’ve heard before, but many I hadn’t. So good.

Happy birthday hip-hop! 🎉

Comments welcome!

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