From age 5 when his father gave him his first drum kit to mastering the Cuban single-headed timbale drums as a teenager, Hines has been on a path to find challenging rhythms in hip hop, jazz, soul and electronic music. He’s played with artists like Ozomatli, Dwele (who he toured with internationally), the Kyle Hollandsworth Band, J Dilla collaborator Phat Kat and has deejayed for J Dilla’s group Slum Village. Locally, he’s held a nine-year, Tuesday residency at Appaloosa that has seen collaborators like Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli, One Republic, B.o.B and once even former Denver Bronco quarterback Jay Cutler rapping a version of “Too Legit to Quit.”
The repetition of J Dilla’s name above is no accident for Hines. He’s immersed himself in the work of the legendary Detroit beatmaker, producer and MC who passed away in 2006. In 2008, Hines printed a t-shirt called “Producer Tree,” which Dilla’s mother, aka “Ma Dukes,” has been rumored to sport a time or two. “With the print and the t-shirt,” Hines said, “I was just trying to show that, for acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde and De la Soul, the father of a lot of those beats was J Dilla.”
On Saturday at 1Up Colfax, Hines is part of a show called “Welcome to Dillaville,” which includes former Pharcyde members SlimKid3 and Fatlip, Slum Village and Casual of Hieroglyphics, among others, in a tribute and celebration of J Dilla’s music. We spoke with Hines in advance of the show about Dilla’s legacy.
Reverb: In your opinion, why was and is J Dilla important?
Hines: Dilla has become like James Brown, in a sense. You almost can’t play funk without referencing James Brown in some way. And now, it’s almost like you can’t play underground hip hop without referencing J Dilla. When his tracks were coming out, they shaped the music of his time, but they’re still shaping the music of the present. Also, it seems like there’s been a huge discovery lately as to just how many songs he put out. If he hadn’t existed, I’m not sure anyone else could fill that gap.
R: One thing you don’t hear people doing is remixing Dilla’s beats. Is that kind of an unwritten rule among musicians?
H: People and family from Detroit have made it clear that you don’t fuck with his music. I’ve heard – Busta Rhymes was one of the artists who said it – that a lot of his beats weren’t even mastered, they just came raw from the studio and sounded pretty much ready-to-go.
R: What can people expect from “Welcome to Dillaville”?
H: I’m excited to see the other two (former) members of The Pharcyde (Slimkid3 and Fatlip). You don’t get to see them perform that often. It’ll also be great to see Slum Village again. Personally, my show is about Dilla the rapper, about MC Dilla and his rhymes, which I have not seen done before. Some of the songs he rapped on, even if he didn’t make the beats, still had his signature rhythm and sense of timing. I think he was a great rapper.
R: How has Dilla changed the way you and other musicians you know approach music?
H: I’m huge on intonation, I guess, and tradition and teaching, and it seems like Dilla has added to the palate of rhythms that I and other musicians can choose from now. Just like you have the shuffle or the Cumbia, now you have Dilla’s rhythms. His sound etched its mark in the game as rare but timeless.
R: Since he died in 2006, do you feel some people have tried to cash in on Dilla’s name?
H: It’s a little weird or unfortunate when you see people on YouTube listing J. Dilla in the credits as producer when he’s been dead for eight years and these people have no connection to Detroit. In the beginning, a lot of the tribute proceeds went to his family, but after time passed, tributes became more about entertaining and celebrating the music. I guess it kind of amazes me that there are even tribute bands now like Super Diamond and Brit Floyd – where the original dudes are still alive (laughs).
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and recently completed his novel, “As We Used to Sing.” His selected work can be read at samdeleo.com.