As much as I had to admit it, there were so many posthumous J Dilla releases that I lost track by the time “Dillatronic” dropped. My fondness for the late Mr. Yancey is immense. I’ve purposefully sought out many of his albums in the hope that his heirs would stay paid, but a glance at his current “encyclopedic” entry states that his large medical bills kept them in debt until almost the present day. Thankfully the revenue from his releases seems to have finally caught up, but I can’t imagine a more damning statement on the cost of medical care in this country than James Yancey leaving behind a nearly multi-generational debt.
At the time “Dillatronic” dropped in 2015 the Yancey clan were still fighting to get caught up, so this compilation of his unreleased beats came in multiple different flavors, including a double vinyl album pressed in “green splatter color.” The shocking thing is that as I was writing this review, seven were still left. No — make that six. Gotta support the Yanceys one more time. The tracks are unnamed here but by the time the fat bass bottom of “Dillatronic 09” hit I was already convinced this was another one for my Dilla collection.
Apparently at one point there was a three-LP version as well, including a slew of collectible merchandise like hats, t-shirts and posters. I mean what else are you going to do when dealing with crippling medical bills? Sell, sell, sell. If you don’t like that the estates of deceased artists are forced to do this, advocate for laws that cancel medical debt when someone passes away. There’s no way his mom (Maureen Yancey) should have been forced to take on that burden while also dealing with her own medical issues and the bills that would result from that too. This is unintentionally becoming an op ed on how gross the medical system is in the United States, but fuck it, so be it. That shit pisses me off.
At least I’ve got chill vibes like “Dillatronic 33” to relax to. It’s remarkable when you think just how much music J Dilla produced in his lifetime that never saw release when he was alive. Any number of rappers would have loved to flow to this beat, and on freestyle mixtapes, many no doubt have. Those who do should at least have the decency to credit him and contribute to his legacy even if the cash strapped Yancey family doesn’t directly benefit from it monetarily.
Some of the vibes here are incredibly short. “Dillatronic 40” doesn’t even last half as long as the number of seconds in its name (0:19). You might get the feeling that these are thoughts Dilla had that he never got around into fleshing out into a substantial form. If so that’s an embarrassment to a lot of producers out there today — Jay Dee’s unformed thoughts are more enjoyable to listen to than their full fledged tracks. Do yourself a solid if you’re a fan of his work and add “Dillatronic” to your catalogue. If you’re new to him as of this review the good news is you’ve got an incredible backlog of material to explore, and probably some new posthumous releases in the future.