When revered hip-hop producer J Dilla passed away from complications from lupus in 2006, he left behind not only an expansive catalog of released productions, but a trove of beats that have never been heard. Dilla’s mom, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, has helped to oversee her son’s posthumous legacy and this summer, she’ll release The King of Beats (Ma Dukes Yancey Collector’s Edition Box Set), featuring 40 J Dilla tracks.
“This project came about by a lot of soul searching and meditation as to what can I do now that my son has so many bootleg projects out by unknown artists without my approval,” Yancey tells Rolling Stone. “Now that I’m out of mourning and full of insight and feeling my son’s energy radiate around me, I wanted to do something different but iconic; Something that people would preserve and relish for a lifetime that spoke quality.”
The box set will include four 10″ vinyl records from Dilla’s “Batches” collection, a commemorative booklet containing interviews with peers and music scholars, a limited-edition 3″ floopy disk containing one unreleased J Dilla production and a cassette featuring five unreleased tracks. The unreleased tracks are all, as Yancey puts it, “lost scrolls found in Dilla’s storage locker and gifted back to me.”
One of those tracks, “Filth,” is available to hear below. “First take. I just wrote this shit,” says Dilla, foreshadowing the track’s spontaneous chaos. As Dilla flips James Brown grunts and grimy drum patterns, you can hear the producer/MC working out his rhymes and stifling laughter at his own lyrics. It’s a raw look into the creative process of the producer and for Yancey, showcases Dilla’s playful side.
“‘Filth’ is definitely a track that Dilla had fun with and his lyrics would put smiles on his fan’s faces,” says Yancey. “To hear him have fun doing his craft so well when he was healthy and not under any pressure is golden.”
As a tribute to the drum machine/sampler that Dilla used for many of his beats, The King of Beats will be manufactured in the image and likeness of the E-Mu SP-1200. The machine was the first electronic instrument the producer used and was responsible for hits by A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and the Pharcyde, among others.
Pre-orders for the box set will begin on Tuesday, June 24th at 10pm via the set’s website, with the collection shipping on August 26th. To Yancey, quality control was the top priority in compiling the box set, which took nearly a year of going through her son’s beats. “I inspected every part just as Dilla would. Every letter engraved, every statement that was made had to say Dilla!,” Yancey says. “With my son, nothing could be ordinary and I had to be certain that the end result would make Dilla smile.”