Celebrating Dilla

Dilla Day celebrates local hip hop while paying tribute to one of the greats

Winnipeg is finally catching up to other cities in paying tribute to the late J Dilla, an influential rapper and record producer who was based out of Detroit, Michigan.

Dilla started releasing music in the ‘90s with hip-hop trio Slum Village, who dropped three records before Dilla broke out on his own in the early 2000s. He ended up working with A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Janet Jackson and numerous other artists during his career. A rare blood disease took his life on February 10, 2006, three days after he turned 32 and released his ninth studio
album Donuts.

“If you’re into hip-hop you have to listen to Dilla. It’s just a given,” Brendan Kinley says. Kinley, the Winnipeg Dilla Day organizer, also goes under the stage name Giant #3.

Dilla Day began in Detroit after his death as a way to celebrate his accomplishments, and took place on what would have been his birthday.

Since then the event has spread to cities all over the world and this year Miami, Florida is even turning Dilla Day into a weekend-long celebration featuring performances by Talib Kweli and Joey Bada$$, while Winnipeg is just starting to pay homage to the late rapper.

“I’m doing it because no one else is and because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for one or two years,” Kinley says.

“My interest is in promoting what I deem to be real, rich aspects of hip-hop culture, something that I think is really lacking in this city. Winnipeg obviously isn’t a metropolis, but if that’s what we’d like to be, then we need to have things to support that and I think this is one of those things.”

The Winnipeg Dilla Day event will be hosted by Giant #3’s new rap collective Super Duty Tough Work and features performances from six different local artists.

“Other cities get bigger names and artists that worked with Dilla, but since that isn’t possible here I thought the next best thing was to get together local artists I really respect or feel are creating music that’s of a certain calibre,” Kinley says.

One of the groups Giant #3 handpicked to perform is 3PEAT, an up-and-coming trio that started making rhymes together about six months ago.

“It’s about time that some like-minded individuals in our city got together and produced an event in tribute to such a great artist,” 3PEAT member Steve
Teixeira says.

“He really should be recognized for guiding hip-hop in such a good, positive way,” 3PEAT member Dillon Morgan adds.

3PEAT will be digging deep into Dilla’s catalogue and paying tribute to some beats that people might not be as familiar with. Overall, the guys recommend Donuts as a good starting point for people who are just getting into his music.

“The guy was on his death bed making those beats, he could barely speak or move, but he still had the passion to create, which is pretty impressive,” Teixeira says.

Published in Volume 69, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 4, 2015)

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