Kanye West wouldn’t be as big today if J Dilla were still alive, claims the late producer’s brother, Illa J.

In a candid interview with AnecDope, Illa J shared his thoughts on the impact his brother, J Dilla, would have had if he were still with us. He suggested that J Dilla’s presence would have significantly altered the music landscape. According to Illa J, “If [J Dilla] was still here, music would’ve took a different turn. I don’t think Kanye is as big as he is if my brother stayed alive. I’m sorry, Kanye needs seven producers. If you look at the credits, there’s like 20 producers on one track.”

Illa J further speculated on the kind of music J Dilla would be creating today. He imagined his brother mixing it up with various genres: “I think he’d be making some crazy trap beats. Obviously, he’d make some Hip Hop stuff but I think he would mess with it all.” Illa J pointed out J Dilla’s versatility, referencing how his brother would sometimes quote Lil Jon’s iconic ‘what?!’ ad-lib in his songs, indicating that he was always in tune with the evolving music scene.

Kanye West himself has acknowledged J Dilla’s profound influence on his work. In the 2014 Stones Throw documentary ‘Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton,’ Kanye likened J Dilla’s beats to “good pussy” and expressed his ongoing reverence for the producer, saying, “We gotta make music and we think, ‘If Dilla was alive, would he like this?’ I have to work on behalf of Dilla.”

Common, a close friend of both Kanye and J Dilla, also remembered their bond fondly. Recalling a Mother’s Day gathering at his Los Angeles home, Common shared how Kanye and J Dilla connected that day. Common said, “Ye came over, it was Mother’s Day. We were going to a Mother’s Day brunch with Ye and his mother and my mother and then Dilla was at the crib. Ye was talking to him and they was just bonding, and then Dilla gave Ye these drums on a record.” He vividly described Kanye’s excitement: “I promise you, Ye was like, it was the golden chalice. We went to the studio later that day and Ye was telling Gee [Roberson], ‘Yo, Dilla gave me these drums!’”

The respect and admiration between Kanye and J Dilla were mutual. Common noted, “Dilla had a lot of love for Ye. And Ye had love for Dilla. It was great to see somebody who was as great as Ye just be like, ‘Dilla gave me these joints!’”

Moreover, J Dilla’s influence on Kanye was reciprocated. Slum Village’s RJ revealed that J Dilla was inspired by Kanye’s soulful beats. During the video shoot for Slum Village’s 2004 song ‘Selfish,’ produced by Kanye, an associate teased J Dilla about Kanye’s prowess with soul samples. RJ recounted, “He shows up to the video and we sitting back there. A guy named Scrap Dirty like, ‘Man, this your group and you gon’ let Kanye come through and do this? He killing the soul shit!’” J Dilla took it as a challenge and crafted the soulful tracks heard on his beloved ‘Donuts’ album. RJ remembered J Dilla’s determined response: “Dilla’s sitting in the stands like, ‘Oh word? That’s what you think?’ He goes back… that’s when you get all the stuff that you heard on Donuts, all the soul stuff. He was making his point that, ‘I’m unfuckwittable.’”

The hypothetical influence of J Dilla on the current music scene remains a topic of speculation, but what’s clear is the lasting impact he had on his contemporaries, including Kanye West. Both Kanye and J Dilla’s legacies continue to resonate in the world of Hip Hop.

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