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Dilla Time  By  cover art

Dilla Time

By: Dan Charnas, Jeff Peretz - contributor
Narrated by: Dan Charnas
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Publisher's summary

This program contains examples of J Dilla's music performed in the story by drummer Nate Smith and is accompanied by a bonus PDF of maps, photos, guides, and more.

"This book is a must for everyone interested in illuminating the idea of unexplainable genius.” (QUESTLOVE)

Equal parts biography, musicology, and cultural history, Dilla Time chronicles the life and legacy of J Dilla, a musical genius who transformed the sound of popular music for the 21st century.

He wasn’t known to mainstream audiences, even though he worked with renowned acts like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu and influenced the music of superstars like Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. He died at the age of 32, and in his lifetime he never had a pop hit. Yet since his death, J Dilla has become a demigod: revered by jazz musicians and rap icons from Robert Glasper to Kendrick Lamar; memorialized in symphonies and taught at universities. And at the core of this adulation is innovation: a new kind of musical time-feel that he created on a drum machine, but one that changed the way “traditional” musicians play.

In Dilla Time, Dan Charnas chronicles the life of James DeWitt Yancey, from his gifted childhood in Detroit, to his rise as a Grammy-nominated hip-hop producer, to the rare blood disease that caused his premature death; and follows the people who kept him and his ideas alive. He also rewinds the histories of American rhythms: from the birth of soul in Dilla’s own “Motown,” to funk, techno, and disco. Here, music is a story of Black culture in America and of what happens when human and machine times are synthesized into something new. Dilla Time is a different kind of book about music, a visual experience with graphics that build those concepts step by step for fans and novices alike, teaching us to “see” and feel rhythm in a unique and enjoyable way.

Dilla’s beats, startling some people with their seeming “sloppiness,” were actually the work of a perfectionist almost spiritually devoted to his music. This is the story of the man and his machines, his family, friends, partners, and celebrity collaborators. Culled from more than 150 interviews about one of the most important and influential musical figures of the past hundred years, Dilla Time is a book as delightfully detail-oriented and unique as J Dilla’s music itself.

©2022 Dan Charnas and Jeff Peretz (P)2022 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

2022, New York Magazine Best Books of the Year, Long-listed

2023, PEN Literary Award - Winne, Winner

2022, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, Long-listed

"[Dilla Time] do[es] what good music books should: send you back to the source material . . . Dilla Time is an important piece of music writing, affording its African-American subject the respect that the rock establishment has long accorded its white heroes."The Economist

“Educational without being overbearing, emotional without turning saccharine, Dilla Time is a must-read not only for fans of Yancey, but anyone with a deep love for hip-hop or Black music, full stop.”The Ringer

“It’s no ordinary book. . . equal parts biography, musical analysis and cultural history delving deep not only into Dilla’s history and music but also into the histories of rhythm and his hometown of Detroit.”Variety

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