... a 400-page biography out Feb. 1 that thoroughly examines the hip-hop producer’s unique approach ... Over the years, there has been almost a deification of Dilla; Charnas’s book takes great efforts to humanize him. Though he is sympathetic to his subject’s struggles—particularly his misfortunes as an artist in the major label system and his deteriorating health—Charnas does not shy away from describing his imperfections ... One of the foundational Dilla myths is how he arrived at his signature sound, in which the rhythm can feel off, different or just wrong. Some have said it was a failure to quantize his compositions, a feature in digital recording that eliminates human error and puts the timing of drum beats in their 'correct' place. Charnas explains that Dilla’s process was more complex and that he took multiple steps to purposefully accentuate the sonic effects of error ... Charnas also clarifies the story around Donuts, an instrumental album that Stones Throw Records released right before Dilla’s death that has become a key entry point for new generations of fans.
If all of this seems extremely technical, trust that as Charnas offers examples and invitations to clap-along, you’ll soon hear—or rather feel—the beats landing slightly off-time ... This is where Charnas’ book excels. It puts Dilla at the centre of a revolution still resonating today, casting Dilla as an artist that added a human touch to machine music, brought emotion to the monotonous twos-and-fours. While at times overly technical and certainly too long, Dilla Time places the producer at the centre of a musical revolution as big as anything from the last century. Few musicians have influenced music like Dilla, and now we can truly understand how.
... a detailed, well-researched, and passionate analysis of the music and life of the influential hip-hop composer, producer, and musician James Dewitt Yancey, aka Jay Dee or J Dilla. Charnas has written not simply a biography but, rather, an unconventional, journalistic documentation of musical sounds and their progressions in history and culture, whether originating in Africa, Europe, or elsewhere.
Set against the atmospheric panorama of Detroit’s rap scene, Charnas’s probing narrative follows Dilla’s ascent through the hip-hop ranks ... Charnas’s account is no hagiography: here, Dilla is a canny and sometimes generous, but prickly figure, not a Tupac-style prophet. And there are some rather moving passages, especially in scenes of Dilla’s mother, Maureen, tending to him in his decline. The book’s heart is its rich, evocative musicological analysis, complete with rhythm diagrams, of Dilla’s beats ... Charnas’s engrossing work is one of the few hip-hop sagas to take the music as seriously as its maker.
... an ambitious, dynamic biography of J Dilla ... he author’s discussion of Dilla’s decline and death from a rare blood disease and lupus is particularly heart-wrenching, especially against the backdrop of his blooming career. Also memorable is Charnas’ chronicle of the family in-fighting that followed his death, which even spilled over into lawsuits against fan-created fundraisers at a time when Dilla’s work was finally being celebrated around the world. A wide-ranging biography that fully captures the subject’s ingenuity, originality, and musical genius.