Wednesday, September 06, 2006

J. Dilla, or Why Downloading Music Makes Music Fans

Not long ago, hip-hop producer J. Dilla aka Jay Dee aka James Yancey died of complications due to diabetes. Sad story, of course. The guy was prolific to the point of working on his final album "Donuts" while in the hospital. But I never quite understood the hype. Though hailed as a genius by many, I couldn't even place just what tracks J. Dilla had produced, let alone remember whether they were any good.

Enter the internet. Curious, thanks to the praise of so many friends, I sought out a taste of J. Dilla's ouvre at my favorite (illegal) download site and hit the motherlode: a fan-compiled 12-disc set of J. Dilla's greatest "hits." Needless to say, few were actually hits, but there have been plenty of pleasant surprises so far. I totally forgot he had so much to do with Common's excellent "Like Water for Chocolate" album, for example.

Now, barring the one-stop shopping (as it were) of the internet, it would have been impossible for me to track down all, most or even some of Dilla's work. A track here, a track there, a whole album here, a single there, a remix way over there - it's just too spread out. Now that I have it all in one place, I can easily access it, find what I like, and search it out in the stores.

Beats buying some 40 CDs for just a few songs, huh? Sure, the music industry lost those sales, but it did gain a newly appreciated fan of not just Dilla but several of the artists he worked with.


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