Though not a household name on the level of hip-hop’s other martyr figures, for true heads, the producer James Yancey—aka Jay Dee, aka J Dilla—is a saint on par with Tupac, Biggie and Jam Master Jay. Eight years after Yancey’s death from a blood disease, the artists who owe their careers to his soulful beats are still paying homage. The Welcome to Dillaville tour features two such acts: Slum Village, the Detroit group of which Yancey was once a member; and Tre “Slimkid3” Hardson and Fatlip of the Pharcyde, whose second album, 1995’s Labcabincalifornia, introduced Yancey’s idiosyncratic production to a wider audience. We asked Hardson, who lives in Portland, to recall the first time he heard Jay Dee.“We were recording our record, and we had maybe 20, 30 songs or something like that. [Delicious Vinyl co-founder] Mike Ross was like, ‘There’s still something missing,’ and we all agreed. We were trying to get that New York sound, because that’s what we listened to, what we danced to. So Mike Ross set it up where we went to New York for six months or so to produce the rest of Labcabincalifornia. We met with Q-Tip, he played us some beats, and they were super killer. He was like, ‘This is my boy, Jay Dee.’ We didn’t believe it was James Yancey. We thought it was Q-Tip’s alias. We finally met Jay Dee when he was in town one day, and he was this cool demeanor type of cat. He had his little Kangol on, dressed nice and clean. He was always sharp. And everything took off from there, basically.
“To us, he was a really mellow cat. When I was on the road with Yancey Boys and Slum Village in Europe, I got to hear more about what kind of cat he actually was. He was so quiet around us, yet he was Superman in Detroit. He was always putting people on. He had a big heart about things. But he had his player side as well. I always saw this calm dude. I never saw anyone who’d be like how we were, which was just balls to the wall.”
SEE IT: Welcome to Dillaville, featuring Slimkid3 and Fatlip, Slum Village, Serge Severe and Elton Cray, is at the Hawthorne Theatre, 1507 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd., on Monday, May 5. 8 pm. $18 advance, $20 day of show. All ages.