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Ottawa’s got the love for J Dilla and the things he left behind

This year marks a decade since the sudden death of the best hip hop producer of all time, J Dilla, and Ottawa is celebrating his life, music and legacy.

Dan Metcalfe’s portrait of J-Dilla will be on display at Kinki during Dilla 10 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

Courtesy Dan Metcalfe

Dan Metcalfe’s portrait of J-Dilla will be on display at Kinki during Dilla 10 on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

It can’t be easy to reflect on your brother’s life 10 years after his death, but Illa J has been “feeling the love” in 2016.

This year marks a decade since the sudden death of undoubtedly the best hip hop producer of all time, J Dilla, and Ottawa is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the mogul’s life, his music and his legacy.

“It’s nice to keep the legacy going,” says Dilla’s brother, John Derek Yancey or Illa J as he is known on stage.

“Usually, around this time, it’s a sad thing, but because of all of the support from people all around the world, it makes it a positive thing. It shows that his presence only left physically and his spirit still lives through his music.”

Illa J is currently on tour in Europe, but he’s making a special trip back to Ottawa this Friday for Dilla 10: A Celebration of His Life and His Music at Kinki Lounge Kitchen.

The party will see Illa J perform alongside Detroit’s Frank N Dank with one very, very special guest showing up: Dilla’s mom, Ma Dukes.

“I am definitely pumped, it should be a really fun time,” adds Dilla, en route to Paris.

“Especially because I am going to be with Frank N Dank and my moms is going to be there. It’s the family reunion tour.”

The J-Dilla celebration will see local selectors Jon Deck and Mace, among others warming up the crowd.

If you’re wondering why Ottawa is celebrating Dilla on such a grand scale, then you never really listened to hip hop. Either that, or you had no idea that much of the hip hop you listened to on your Walk-Man in the early 90s was produced by Dilla. Think A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu and The Roots. There is so much more. Dilla changed the hip hop landscape with his signature sound and his modest, back room approach to producing beats.

Dilla died February 10, 2006 after a three-year battle with Lupus. He was just 32 years old, staring a world of music ahead of him. But the hip hop mogul didn’t fade away, not even the slightest. A slew of unreleased material has been dropped since his death, with his latest, and said to be last batch of his beats, set to drop this April on his posthumous album, The Diary.

Illa J says there has been a shift in the music industry over the last decade, one where musical mediocrity is celebrated on the radio while greatness is buried under a ton of garbage. He doesn’t necessarily see it as only a bad thing, as most have to dig a little deeper to find the good stuff. He says the people who look for good music are the ones who are supposed to be listening to it.

“There’s so much good music out there, from rock to R&B, every style of music,” he adds.

“I can hit up some alternative rock. Tame Impala, super dope, Alabama Shakes, super dope. Different generations are in tune with different kinds of vibration. This generation likes a lot of bass. Just take all the treble out and turn the bass up,” he adds, chuckling.

Friday’s celebration will be more than just music. Illa J, his mom and Kinki head chef Aaron Wong have curated a menu spinning off of Dilla’s favourite eats: 10 spice fried chicken, wasala habanero hot chicken, honey braised pepper wings, shoestring fries and jalapeno cream chess cornbread. Don’t eat too much though, there’s a donut-eating contest, courtesy of Suzie Q Donuts.

Local artists Dan Metcalfe and Dom Laporte will be decorating Kinki with live art installations throughout the night and other artists will be auctioning off Dilla-inspired art work during a silent auction.

Tickets are $22 for dinner and the show while show tickets alone are $10. Music starts at 9 p.m.

Come celebrate the man who changed hip hop, and bring your damn appetite!