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Review: Dilla Day Indy at the Jazz Kitchen 

click to enlarge The man himself - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • The man himself
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What began as a two minute moment of silence seven years ago during Old Soul Entertainment's "Soul Session" has now become a full fledged event. Nearly every major figure in the Indianapolis hip-hop community was assembled for Dilla Day Indy at the Jazz Kitchen, a celebration of the life and music of Detroit producer James Yancey aka "J Dilla."

And he certainly is worth celebrating.

Known for his soulful, organic production, J Dilla worked with such hip-hop and soul giants as A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, Common, The Pharcyde, D'Angelo and De La Soul. He helped produce such landmark releases as Common's Like Water for Chocolate, A Tribe Called Quest's Beats, Rhymes and Life, D'Angelo's Voodoo and The Roots' Things Fall Apart.

The fourth official Dilla Day Indy was kicked off with performances by Oreo Jones, Ajene the God, Rusty Redenbacher and Brandon Meeks, among others. Backed by a house band that featured Kevin Anker on keys, Brian Yarde on drums and Brandon Meeks on bass guitar, each performer gave their take on a notable Dilla penned or produced track. And the Jazz Kitchen, with its cool fluorescent lights and aqueous stage background, provided the ideal environment for such a tribute.

The second half of the night saw the show's headliners, Dilla's brother Illa J and longtime Dilla collaborator Frank Nitt of Frank and Dank, giving the crowd their personal tribute to the legacy of J Dilla. Illa J and Frank Nitt were both charismatic performers, yet they never outshined the emcees that preceded them. This collectivism was refreshing in a genre that seems to be continually about a celebration of self. But on Saturday night, it was all about Dilla and the staggering body of work that continues to influence hip-hop today.

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