I was one of the fortunate few to witness one of Dilla's last performances at the Jazz Café, Camden Town, London on 24 November 2005. Like many, I had heard rumours of his ill health but understood that he had recovered. We were shocked to see his condition when he was carried on stage for the show. Performing from a wheelchair, visibly suffering, he managed to give a mesmerising performance of a handful of his best-loved tracks. Once he left the stage, the evening evolved into a gathering of like-minded Dilla aficionados, chaired by Frank 'N' Dank and Phat Kat. Concerned for his health, we all just felt blessed to be in the same building.
A few months later, when the tragic news of his death broke, I wrote what you now hear as the second section of this song. As much as anything, it was a means of coming to terms with my feelings. They were difficult to describe. I had never met Dilla, so it was not my place to grieve. Nevertheless, I felt a strong sense of loss for someone whose work had long inspired me.
I had always felt this way about Big L, whose tragic death in 1999 robbed us of, in my opinion, one of the most talented (yet underappreciated) MCs of all time. Whilst writing my Dilla tribute, I realised that I was doing so around the anniversary of Big L's death. I decided to pay my respects to him too.
This track did reach the airwaves when it was first written in 2006 but has never before been released to the general public. It was never (and still isn't) intended for commercial or promotional purposes. I have only decided to circulate it now in connection with a J Dilla foundation charity event at which I am performing this Sunday 6 February. "J Dilla Changed My Life", presented by The Doctor's Orders at Scala in Kings Cross:
This yearly charity event is held in order to raise as much money as possible for The J-Dilla Foundation and Lupus UK, extremely worthy causes. I will be there to perform, donate and pay tribute. I hope to see you there too.
Big L and J Dilla rest in peace.