Illa-J: The Underrated Younger Brother of J-Dilla 

The world-renowned J-Dilla, one of the best hip-hop producers and beat-makers, sadly passed away in 2006 after a long battle with lupus. However, his legacy still thrives through his music, which continues to influence the hip-hop culture. Although J-Dilla’s music continues to inspire many, there’s another artist whose talent and musical contribution are often underrated– his younger brother, John Yancey, also known as Illa-J. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1986, Illa-J grew up in a family of musicians. His father, Beverly Yancey, was a jazz bassist, and his mother, Maureen Yancey, was a former opera singer. As a child, he was exposed to different genres of music, and he started playing the piano at the age of 7. However, it wasn’t until Illa-J turned 16 and his brother J-Dilla gave him his first MPC that he realized his talent for beat-making. 

Illa-J’s music is a combination of different genres, like soul, funk, jazz, and hip-hop. His sound is a reflection of his musical upbringing, and he credits his family for his love of music. In an interview with Complex, he said, “My family is super musical, and it wasn’t just one kind of music. It could be classical, folk, jazz, or soul. There were times when I would be in the car with my dad, listening to Coltrane, and then we’d come back home, and he would show me how to play a funk bassline.” Illa-J’s style is unique and distinct from his brother’s, but his music still carries J-Dilla’s influence. In 2007, Illa-J released his first album titled “Yancey Boys,” which featured J-Dilla’s unreleased beats. The album received critical acclaim and introduced Illa-J’s music to a wider audience. Since then, he has released several albums, including “Home” and “John Yancey,” which showcase his growth as an artist. 

Aside from being a musician, Illa-J is also a visual artist. He creates album covers, tour posters, and other visual elements for his music. His creativity extends beyond music, and he sees his art and music as interconnected. He said in an interview with Passion of the Weiss, “I think of it as a whole. I never separate the visual from the musical. It always goes hand in hand.” In conclusion, Illa-J’s musical prowess and artistic creativity are often overshadowed by his brother’s success. 

However, his music deserves recognition, and he should be appreciated for his contribution to hip-hop culture. He has a unique sound and style that sets him apart from other artists, and his music is worth listening to. So, let’s give Illa-J the appreciation he deserves, and let his music inspire us, just as J-Dilla’s music has for many years.

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