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How this legendary hip-hop producer humanized a machine

J Dilla made his MPC3000 musical.

There's a halo of reverence around J Dilla, a producer and beatmaker from Detroit who created some of the most fascinating and influential beats in hip-hop history. Before he passed away in 2006, J Dilla worked with countless artists and producers — from Erykah Badu and Janet Jackson to Busta Rhymes and Madlib — and developed an off-kilter style of rhythm and sampling that transcended the machine he used to create music: the Akai Midi Production Center, otherwise known as the MPC.

For episode seven of Vox Pop’s Earworm, I called on Brian “Raydar” Ellis, who is an emcee, producer, and, most notably, the founder of the J Dilla ensemble at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches. In the video above, Ellis helps me break down exactly why J Dilla was so revered by his peers and by hip-hop enthusiasts around the world.

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