Freefall: Nostalgia

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näˈstaljə, nəˈstaljə/

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

J Dilla is the reason why I listen to hip-hop. If you don’t know who he is, he was the producer of the hip-hop group, Slum Village, and had also worked with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, MF DOOM, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, just to name a few. Sadly, he passed away at the young age of 32, due to lupus, but yet his legacy lives on. He was, and still is, very influential to a lot of people, most especially to me.

When I got my first paycheque, the very first thing I bought was a black two-gigabyte iPod Nano. At 16, I didn’t know what kind of music I liked or which artists I enjoyed, but I needed to fill up two-gigabyte of space, so I began listening to the radio. I started listening to Flow 93.5, which back then, was strictly a hip-hop and R&B FM station. Now, if you ever listened to the old Flow 93.5, you’d remember how refreshing OTA Live was. They would play old school hip-hop, and the songs that would play were very different from what I would hear on mainstream radio. After consistently tuning in to the segment, they played a specific song that caught my eardrums, and that song was “The Light” by Common. I actually didn’t know the name of the song, and back then, Shazam didn’t exist, so I had to patiently wait the next day for the track list. I had never heard a track so beautifully made (well, for me at least), and I became obsessed. I had the realization that if I was going to fill up my iPod, this was the standard. I appreciated Common, and the way he made that track his own, but I had to find out where the song came from. “The Light” was the fruit, Common was the tree, but I had to find out who the root was. I searched up who produced it to answer my question, and a name popped up, “J Dilla”. I didn’t know who the man was, but it was love at first hear. I went through his discography and his story, and I guess, the rest, as they say, was history.

My interest in this kind of music grew passionately the more I dug deeper. I started seeing names like Pete Rock, Q-Tip, Madlib, and the hole to dig got even bigger. Now, years later, I am still digging and probably will never stop. J Dilla’s history goes way back, and is being continued with new artists like Chance the Rapper, Flying Lotus, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Bishop Nehru.

Nostalgia is caused by different factors: a place, a person, a specific moment, etc. Every time I hear “The Light”, it still evokes that same feeling I felt the first time I heard it. This started as a way of finding myself, but instead, I came out with so much more. I ended up finding out someone’s ingenuity, his continuous inspiration to the music around us, and most importantly, the beginning of my love for hip-hop, as well as a deeper appreciation for music as a whole.

NOTE: This playlist feature songs that have been produced, sampled, or inspired by the one and only, J Dilla.