Jay Dee only released two solo albums before his death February 10 — and the second, Donuts, just hit stores February 7. Nevertheless plenty more is expected from the unsung hip-hop producer and rapper, including at least two more albums this year.
The first posthumous release from Jay (a.k.a. J Dilla) is due July 11 and will feature a mix of big names (Busta Rhymes and Common) and underground legends (Madlib and Pharoahe Monch).
Jay originally titled the album The Shining to coincide with its creepy original release date June 6 (6/6/06), but his family and friends felt it was still fitting even after the disc was pushed back.
“It’s his legacy shining through,” explained Eddie Bezalel, who is overseeing the release for British label BBE Records.
Jay was recording The Shining while hospitalized and was 85 percent done when he died (see “Jay Dee — Producer For Common, Busta And Tribe — Dies” ). Jay’s mother immediately insisted Bezalel see it through, and he’s since hired Dilla’s friend and fellow Detroit producer Karriem Riggins (Common, Slum Village) to executive produce.
“I asked her if Karriem would make sense and she said yeah,” Bezalel said. “So he’s just mixing a couple of songs and they have to cut vocals on a couple, just basic things that need to get done.”
Despite the surroundings in which it was recorded, Bezalel said the theme of The Shining is love.
“It’s not him asking for pity, which some people would do,” Bezalel said. “Jay chose to focus on the positive. He chose a theme that was inspirational and it just blows my mind because most people aren’t like that.”
Musically the album will showcase Jay’s unique style, which merged a variety of genres using both instruments and unrecognizable samples of known tunes.
“When people hear this, people are going to say, ’Jay was on some sh–,’ and I’m not saying this to hype it,” Bezalel said. “When I heard this one joint, I was like, ’Oh my God.’ It’s not like it was overproduced — I mean you knew Jay’s style, it was really about the details and how those details came into play.”
BBE could have stuck with the June 6 release date, but Bezalel wanted an extra month to work on a companion DVD that will chronicle Jay’s life. The team behind the online community Okayplayer — which includes Common, Dilated Peoples and the Roots — are producing the documentary.
“[Okayplayer is] basically all the people in the industry who all love Dilla,” Bezalel said. “The most important thing is to take him out of the esoteric realm and bring him to the mainstream.”
The album could be tied in with a tribute concert that is in the works, although details are still pending.
“There are people working [on a concert] on the East and West Coast,” Jay’s mother, Maureen Yancey, said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be doing it together but everybody has some irons in their fire.”
Yancey is also working on opening Jay’s studio up as a public workshop and plans to mine his vaults for further releases. In the meantime, another album, Jay Love Japan, is already done for Operation Unknown Records. Truth Hurts is among the guests.
The Shining, though, will be the closest thing to Jay’s landmark 2001 debut, Welcome 2 Detroit, also released on BBE. (Donuts was a collection of instrumentals.)
“About a year and a half ago, Jay reached out and said he wanted to do another album with us,” Bezalel said. “He was a really humble guy for his accomplishments. When you meet hip-hop guys, there’s a lot of ego and a lot of self-promotion, whereas Jay was like, ’Let’s talk obscure Nigerian jazz records.’ We sat in the hotel room when I first met him and I was like, ’Check this out,’ and we were all on our laptops and burning CDs for Jay and he was flipping out. He was about the music, not all the extra sh–.”
For more on Jay Dee and his unique persona, check out the feature “Jay Dee: Hip-Hop’s Shy Giant.”