Oscar Winner Questlove to Executive Produce New Documentary on Legendary Hip-Hop Producer J Dilla

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Questlove, the recent Oscar-winner, famed drummer, and frontman for the legendary hip-hop group The Roots, is set to executive produce a new documentary on the legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla.

Questlove (aka Amir Thompson) is fresh from sweeping the recent awards season for his documentary, Summer of Soul. Now he’s set his sights on one of his heroes.

Thompson’s Two One Five Entertainment is partnering with his Summer of Soul producer, Joseph Patel, New York Times bestselling author, Dan Charnas, Cinetic Media, and Scenario Media to develop the documentary, which will be produced in cooperation with the estate of James Dewitt Yancey (aka J Dilla).

“The estate of James Dewitt Yancey, and its wholly-owned production entity, Pay Jay Productions, Inc., which benefits J Dilla’s two children, his younger brother, and his mother, is proud to give its blessing to an amazing project created by discerning and talented filmmakers who knew J Dilla,” a statement from Dilla’s estate read about the new partnership. “We trust the judgment of Ahmir, Joseph, Dan, and Scenario to elevate Dilla’s life, music, and legacy to their rightful place in the canon of music’s great innovators; and their film is the only documentary project we have endorsed.”

The new doc, Dilla Time, is based on the New York Times bestseller, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm by Dan Charnas. The book tells the story of the complicated life of the Detroit-born artist, who died at 32 of a rare blood disease. It also advances a crucial new theory about the seismic impact that Dilla’s time-bending manipulations of the drum machine had on modern pop music. 

Dilla’s major musical contribution lives on in the memories and compositions of some of pop music’s biggest names. This includes his collaborators from hip-hop’s golden era, Questlove, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Common, and Erykah Badu, major producers such as Ye, Dr. Dre, and Pharrell, and critically acclaimed acts of a new generation like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, and Hiatus Kaiyote.

The documentary will be part biography, part musicology, and part musical meditation, featuring insight from some of the most influential and innovative voices of modern music.

“Explaining musical genius is my mission,” says Questlove of the project. “To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true. Not just on me, but on an entire generation of musicians that everyone knows and loves. J Dilla was our teacher. And what he taught us was how to feel rhythm in a way we had never felt before. I’m so honored to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary.”

Check out American Songwriter’s review of Dilla Time the memoir HERE.

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