Entertainment

Questlove to produce J Dilla documentary




Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has his sights on his next documentary subject: J Dilla. The Academy Award winner will executive produce a documentary film about the late music producer.

The documentary is based on the bestselling book, “Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm” by Dan Charnas. J Dilla’s career was cut short when he died in 2006 at age 32 of a rare blood disease.

Born James Dewitt Yancey, J Dilla was a Detroit-based music producer-musician-rapper who lent his innovative production technique — unorthodox sampling, idiosyncratic time signatures — to albums by artists, including Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, his own group, Slum Village, and others. He also influenced other producers like Dr. Dre, Kanye West and The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams.

94th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, second from left, has announced that he is an executive producer on a documentary about music producer J Dilla. He is pictured here on March 27, 2022 at the “94th Academy Awards” where he and partners, Joseph Patel, David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent, won the Best Documentary Feature for “Summer of Soul.” (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images )

“Explaining musical genius is my mission. To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true,” Questlove said in a statement. “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 ever felt before. I’m so honored to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary.”

Questlove was a frequent collaborator of Yancey’s during his lifetime. Yancey produced music for The Roots’ 1999 album, “Things Fall Apart.” He and Questlove also formed a production team and musical collective known as The Soulquarians, which was responsible for records by artists like Erykah Badu and Common.

Questlove and his Two Fifteen Entertainment will reunite with producer Joseph Patel, following their successful partnership of 2021’s “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” which took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature earlier this year. Questlove and Patel will work in cooperation with Yancey’s estate.

“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,” read a statement from Yancey’s estate.

The statement continued, “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 late music producer J Dilla will be the subject of a Questlove documentary. (Photo courtesy of Brian “B+” Cross)

Patel and Darby Wheeler will co-direct “Dilla Time.” Charnas will help develop the film with Cinetic Media and Scenario Media.

“Dilla Time “is the latest musical film project that Questlove is working on involving Black music innovators. Following “Summer of Soul,” the Roots drummer-bandleader announced that he would be directing a forthcoming documentary on Sly Stone and co-producing a docuseries on James Brown.

TheGrio music writer Matthew Allen contributed to this article.

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