In The Quotes: Rare Form, "Donuts Are Forever" J Dilla Tribute Party

Line wrapped around the block mad early. Heads packed inside mad late. All celebrating Hip Hop in all of it’s cross-cultural goodness, sweating it out to James “J Dilla” Yancey’s illimitable hymns.

Standing on Santos Party House’s second floor balcony, gazing over a sea of Dilla devotees, grooving, moving to “So Far To Go” then erupting over the next triumphant anthem booming through the night club...well, it’s damn-near a spiritual experience.

For the past 5 year’s, Rare Form’s “Donuts Are Forever” J Dilla tribute party is one of a few “can’t miss” events in NYC Hip Hop. Luminaries in several of the city’s vibrant scenes come together to pay tribute to the iconic catalog of the under-known icon. Before succumbing to complications from Lupus in 2006, Dilla worked with everyone from Dwele to Q-Tip to Guilty Simpson to Madlib to Eyrkah Badu to Busta Rhymes to Janet Jackson, crafting an uncanny array of progressive, seemingly time-altering tunes that travel straight from the speakers and directly to the soul. Rich Medina and DJ Spinna (along with DJ Parler, Op!, Sam Champ, DJ Chela and DJ Tara) conducted the opus. The rest of us swayed like Avatars, unified in celebration.

It’s difficult to place the right words together to accurately describe the impact Dilla’s music has had on millions worldwide.

It’s difficult to place the right words together to describe the vibe of “Donuts Are Forever”.

It's futile. So we stopped trying.

Instead, spoke to a few of those in attendance at DAF last Saturday night and asked them to express their thoughts on James “J Dilla” Yancey and “Donuts Are Forever”. The artist. The legacy. The celebration.

The following are their responses, taken individually, chopped like a Jay Dee sample. Happy birthday, Dilla. May you rest in eternal peace.

Von Pea, Emcee, Tanya Morgan, 5 DAFs: “I love “Donuts Are Forever” because, for me, I’ve been coming before the doors open every year. This is like a family reunion. I know most of the cats from this party, if I didn’t know them already. So this is like a reunion for me. One of the many I have every year. I love this shit, yo. For real.”

Dee Phunk, Partner, Rare Form, 5 DAFs: “This is about 3 or 4 months every year out of our lives to plan this out -- picking DJs, figuring out where we want to do it. It’s a big deal. The whole payoff is around midnight/12:30AM when the place is packed, everybody’s rocking to the music. I love it. That’s like the money shot of the whole thing.”

Liz Allen, Photographer, 4 DAFs: “The first show I went to was the second one at Southpaw, the third one was at Public Assembly. Last year was at The Bell House and this year is at Santos. So every year it’s bigger and better. Bigger and better. Dilla’s music touched people from all types of cultures, different parts of the world, different parts of the country. I have people here that I see every year that travel from Connecticut, from DMV [Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia], from everywhere. It doesn’t even matter. And I definitely feel that Dilla’s music touched anybody and everybody -- all over the world.”

Neil MacLean, Six Five Design Group, T-shirt designer, 1 DAF: “I’m honored to be a part of it. I’m happy to be here with these guys. People come from out of town. I’ve been wanting to come. I just moved here from DC. I’ve been wanting to come in the past and friends came up from DC and everywhere. [When designing the T-shirts] I just wanted to get a little of the classic, timelessness of Dilla and the Donuts concept. I finally made it. I know it’s going to be a crazy night. The vibe is good.”

Von Pea, Emcee, Tanya Morgan, 5 DAFs: “No matter what’s going on -- it ain’t no Top 40 shit -- this is for us. Not to sound like it’s a cult or nothing but this is where you come and you know everybody is in love with the music that’s being played. That’s my favorite part, man.

Daru Jones, Drummer, 1 DAF: “This is actually the first time I was able to make it to [“Donuts Are Forever”]. It’s about the energy that he puts into the music. You can definitely feel the love. It’s hard to explain but it’s great energy.

Dana Bartle, Brooklyn Bowl/J Dilla Foundation, 5 DAFs: “I think what makes this event awesome is that it’s sort of grassroots like Dilla would like. A lot of events that I go to, you know, it’s all about the promoter getting credit. Dilla would hate that. That’s not what it’s about. And if you’ve ever spent any time with these guys in Detroit, that’s really what it’s about. Everybody dancing together and having fun.”

J Monopoly, OISD (emcee/producer), 1 DAFs: “It‘s sad to say that [Dilla] never got the props he deserved until after he passed. He’s a universal God, for real. He had more appeal all over the world during his lifetime than he did in the US so it’s crazy. It’s definitely a beautiful thing to see people come together in memory of J Dilla.”

Dee Phunk, Partner, Rare Form, 5 DAFs: “I think it has a lot to do with his music. His music has a certain feeling to it, whether it was Hip Hop, soul, R&B. His music had a feeling to it and I think that a lot of people -- very different people -- all have very similar souls, very similar vibes about them and you’ll see it in people’s faces here tonight. You could tell that they have a certain aesthetic they go for in music. Everybody in here has great taste in music. If you came to [this] party, you know your stuff.”


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Images by Maine.Photog. Follow Maine.Photog on Twitter @AudacityOfStyle

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