Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm by Dan Charnas (Hardcover 480 pages)
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 twenty-first century.
It’s Dilla Time. Finally. Dilla Time is the story of the invention of a new kind of time, a new kind of sound, by the most influential music producer of the last twenty-five years, someone you may never have heard of: J. Dilla. He’s revered by rappers and producers from Kanye West to Kendrick Lamar, and he worked with the likes of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson—but Dilla himself never rose to mainstream fame, despite revolutionizing the way music sounds before his untimely death at the age of thirty-two.
In Dilla Time, Dan Charnas chronicles the life of J. Dilla, from his gifted childhood in Detroit, to the rare medical condition that caused his tragically premature death. He also records the histories of American rhythms: from the birth of funk and soul in Dilla’s own Motown, to 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 totally new. Charnas teaches us to “see” sound differently, giving time itself texture, color, pattern.
Dilla’s beats, which to the untrained ear sound imprecise and chaotic, were born of the rigorous work ethic of a perfectionist almost spiritually devoted to his music. This is the story of the man, and the machines, that made up a new kind of time. Equal parts musicology, biography, and cultural history, Dilla Time is a book as delightfully detail-oriented and as vibrantly original as J. Dilla’s music.
About the Author
Dan Charnas is the author of the definitive history of the hip-hop business, The Big Payback. He is also the author of Work Clean, a book that applies chefs’ techniques to almost any life situation. He was the cocreator and executive producer of the VH1 movie and TV series The Breaks. He lives in Manhattan and is an associate professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU.