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While most of the music world was focussed squarely on the 55th annual Grammy Awards, a gathering of hip hop artists and fans came together this past weekend to honour the life and legacy of legendary producer James ‘J Dilla‘ Yancey, who died on February 10, 2006 from complications from lupus.
Overseeing the event, dubbed Dilla Day Detroit, were Dilla’s mother Maureen ‘Ma Dukes’ Yancey and Highland Park Mayor DeAndre Windom. “All you have to do is embrace it. We got it going on,” exclaimed Maureen Yancey from the Fillmore Detroit stage. “We’re the soul capital of the world. We’re on this!”
The day, which saw nearly 1,800 people attended, featured performances from fellow Detroit hip hop heavyweight Royce Da 5’9” and Talib Kweli. The line-up also included Dilla proteges Frank N Dank, his younger brother Illa J, DJ Spinna and others. The day also honoured the life of another fallen Detroit hero, Deshaun ‘Proof’ Holton of D12, who passed in 2006.
Ma Dukes is the head of The J Dilla Foundation. The following day the nonprofit organisation held Dilla Youth Day at the the 5E Gallery in Detroit, which featured a free, hands-on program that connected children with music-making people, tools and theory.