Go Figure: The J Dilla Music Tech Grant
This month, the J Dilla Music Tech Grant will expand to three more high schools. Named after the iconic producer who died following complications from lupus in 2006, the initiative will help students in various U.S. cities learn the fundamentals of electronic music creation and audio engineering.
The music tech program was created in partnership with Pharrell Williams’ i am OTHER, Save the Music, MTV, and Arizona State University. Each school awarded a J Dilla Music Technology Grant will receive a set of instruments, computer hardware, audio equipment, books, DJ gear, and software tools. Save the Music (STM) will also provide programming support to grantees over a 10-year period.
The value of each grant is estimated to be worth over $68,558. I calculated this figure using the grant package info sheet provided by STM. It does not take into account teaching hours or administrative resources. For educators participating in the program, Arizona State University’s Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education (CITME) will be providing professional development opportunities and academic support.
J Dilla has worked with everyone from Janet Jackson to Ghostface Killah. His musical fingerprints are behind Common’s “The Light,” Nas and Q-Tip’s “One Love,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Find a Way,” Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know,” D’Angelo’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” and other sonic gems. Dilla had the magical ability to make electronically produced beats sound like melodies composed only with live instruments.
Born James Dewitt Yancey, the Detroit native’s influence on current music trends can be felt everywhere. Questlove, Drake, Lizzo, J. Cole, Ty Dolla $ign, Rapsody, Dr. Dre, H.E.R., and DJ Premier (among many others) have all expressed admiration for his work. As the old Kanye once put it, “If Dilla was alive, would he like this? I have to work on behalf of Dilla.”
Though only 32 when he passed away, the equipment J Dilla used throughout his groundbreaking career is now part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Peep his tools of mastery here.