James “J. Dilla” Yancey will always go down as one of the greatest producers to touch an MPC, as seen by the yearly Dilla tributes and the loads of beats he’s contributed to the likes of Common, Busta Rhymes and others.
But as Jay Dee, he was nice on the mic as well. Boasting a formidable in-the-pocket flow and a cocksure mic presence, he’s shown his rhyme skills various times throughout his career. Check below for some of Yancey’s rhyme highlights.
Words By William E. Ketchum III
Jay Dee, “Fuck The Police”
On the surface, “Fuck The Police” is armed with head-nodding percussion and a melodic loop. But don’t let the uptempo beat get you distracted: Dilla’s rhymes vent on frustrations with homocidal, drug-dealing boys in blue. It almost seems as if chanting and rhyming here is like laughing to avoid crying.
Standout line: “Who protects me from you? I got niggas that buy techs and weed from you. And all a nigga sees in the news, is cop corruption, niggas gettin’ popped for nothin’.”
Slum Village feat. Jay Dee, “Reunion”
After Dilla left the group to pursue solo efforts and Baatin left because of health reasons, Detroit Deli album featured founding member T3 and new member eLZhi as Slum Village. While “Reunion” was supposed to be the track that brought everyone back together, eLZhi’s final verse sheds light on why that wasn’t in the cards. But that didn’t stop Dilla from setting off the song the right way, and dropping one of his most clever punchlines.
Standout line: “Shouts to…all of my peeps that rep more D then 12 Eminems.”
Slum Village “Get Dis Money”
Stacking paper has always been one of rap’s most reliable topics, and on this heater from Fantastic Vol. 2, Dilla shows his penchant for getting it.
Standout line: “You need to get back like the rebate/And bid, need to step up like the home plate/My man, now what you know about the Great Lakes?/We contemplate on gettin money like a sweepstakes.”
Slum Village, “Climax (Girl Shit)”
On this song, Dilla and his fellow SV members each game their way into threesomes with women. Immersing himself into his silky instrumental, his subdued delivery does its job.
Standout line: “You ain’t gotta play hard to get/I know you, I know you like the art of sex/I’m puttin’ down my plan like a architect.”
Common feat. Slum Village, “Thelonious”
In what many proclaim as their favorite verse from him, Dilla’s braggadocious bars and in-the-pocket flow almost supplant Common’s as the song’s best.
Standout line: “I spit fire like Esther on Sanford and Son did/I’m raw dude, more juice than Sunkist.”
February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006
Slum Village “Hold Tight (J Dilla Remix)”
Dilla’s verse in the “Hold Tight” remix was short and sweet, but his opening line still stands as one of his best.
Standout line: “You don’t pay attention man/that’s why your money is the size of your attention span.”
Jay Dee “Shake It Down”
In this song from his solo debut Welcome 2 Detroit, Dilla rocked more of his cocky rhymes and observations of his hometown. While there is a quality line or two, this is a song that works because of Dilla’s flow and progression through the verses.
Standout line: “I’m so ill with it, so deal/Dill with it”
Jay Dee feat. Blu, “The Clapper”
On this other selection from Welcome 2 Detroit, Dilla talks about the dangers of flossing without knowing your surroundings.
Standout line: “They’ll see you out in the streets and they peepin you out/Let em catch you slippin and end up with a piece in yo mouth/It ain’t over cause they got the keys to your house/Your weed and your car bout to spend your G’s at the bar.”
Slum Village “Raise It Up”
In another highlight from Fantastic Vol. 2, Jay Dee and his groupmates spit tongue-in-cheek rhymes that modestly say they’re not flossing. As usual, Dilla sets the song off right with his confident rhymes and consistent delivery. A standout line here doesn’t work because of the concept from beginning to end, but a solid verse nonetheless.
J-Dilla “Won’t Do”
On the grand finale to his final album (when he was alive) The Shining, Dilla does exactly what he’s best at: flossing, macking, and flowing. This song doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but with its emotive backdrop and confident rhymes, it perfectly represents what Dilla’s music was all about.
Standout line: “Whole body blingin’ like 3-P-O, nigga/ And when i pull that fucker out, it attracts the gold-diggers”
- Just Dizle, “The Best Of Dilla” Parts 1, 2, & 3
- Life Of J Dilla Remembered In “Still Shining” Documentary