De La Soul leads the Dilla Day lineup. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)
It has been eight years since the death of influential Detroit hip-hop producer James “J Dilla” Yancey, but his legacy lives on as new fans continue to discover his work and celebrate his life.
Friday’s Dilla Day Detroit event at the Fillmore is the third annual local celebration of Dilla’s contributions to music.
“He was truly one of a kind,” says Posdnuos of hip-hop trio De La Soul, who had a long working relationship with Dilla. “I always say J.D. was the Tupac of beatmaking; he has gems and jewels that are still out there to be found and to be heard.”
De La Soul heads up a stacked Dilla Day bill that includes DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Slum Village, Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson and more. The event will be hosted by Detroit rapper Ro Spit.
Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, Dilla’s mother, is looking forward to the show, which falls on what would have been her son’s 40th birthday. “There’s a lot of passion and a lot of energy,” she says. “I’m really excited about things moving forward.”
The first Dilla Day Detroit event in 2012 was plagued by no-shows, when advertised headliners Busta Rhymes and Jay Electronica failed to arrive without warning. Last year’s event went off without a hitch and featured performances by Talib Kweli and Royce da 5’9”; Friday’s is the biggest Dilla Day Detroit show yet.
The concert is also slated to feature the premiere of a new video by Phife Dawg, which was filmed in part last month at Eastpointe’s Melodies and Memories, one of Dilla’s old record shop haunts.
“He was in here almost every day in his young days,” says Gary Koral, manager at Melodies and Memories. He says Dilla would bring in friends like Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots, and they would comb the aisles of the store long into the night.
“What a great guy he was,” Koral says. “I’m very lucky to have had him come in here and spend so much time.”
Dilla Day also will feature offerings from Dilla’s Delights, the Harmonie Park pastry shoppe that Dilla’s uncle, Herman Hayes, is slated to open this spring. Plans for a fall 2013 opening were pushed back, but Yancey says a new opening date in late March is likely. (She recommends the broccoli cheese donut, which she swears is good.)
Posdnuos, whose work with Dilla dates back to De La Soul’s 1996 album “Stakes Is High,” says Dilla was a quiet soul. “He was really reserved. He would observe more than he would share,” he says.
That said, his favorite Dilla moments came when Dilla would call him on the phone out of the blue and tell him he had some new beats he was ready to send him.
“He’d be like, ‘Alright, alright, I got a new batch for you!’ ” Pos says. “I’m such a hip-hop hoarder, when people like that would call on my answering machine I would save them, so I have his voice calling me and telling me, ‘I’m about to hit you with a new batch; it’s coming!’ Just to hear him on my answering machine, that would make my day.”
Dilla Day Detroit
with De La Soul, Slum Village, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Phife Dawg, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, Bishop Lamont, DJ TJ the King and more
8 p.m. Friday
2115 Woodward, Detroit