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ED GORDON, host:

James Yancey, also known as J Dilla, was an influential Hip Hop artist. The Detroit producer and rapper made music for big name acts like De La Sol, A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. But after only a brief time in Hip Hop spotlight, J Dilla died last week. He was 32. NPR's Christopher Johnson has this tribute.

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CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON reporting:

J Dilla's reputation for bare bones, old school production and rap styles earned him quick respect in Hip Hop over the last six years. But his exposure to music came much earlier. His mother, Maureen Yancey, is a former opera singer. She says her husband was a bassist who rehearsed at home, where their son would listen. So it was no surprise when she saw in J Dilla the first signs of a budding disc jockey.

Ms. MAUREEN YANCEY (Mother of J Dilla): Dilla's interest in music started at age 2. At age 2, Dilla carried 45's under his arm and turntables to the park everyday to spin records, and this was in downtown Detroit.

JOHNSON: In the mid-90's, Dilla started building an impressive resume of production credits. He did albums for Q-Tip, D'Angelo, and Common. When his own Detroit based trio, Slum Village, released their album, Fantastic, Volume 2 just six years ago, Jay Dee quickly became one of Hip Hop's most sought after artists. A year later, Jay Dee put out a solo disc called Welcome to Detroit.

It featured some of the city's underground rap talents.

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While Dilla was balancing several music projects, he was also battling lupus. His mother says it was, of course, painful to lose her son, who died from heart failure Friday morning in her arms. She wants her son to be remembered for his love for people and for his art.

Ms. YANCEY: What concerned him most about people in music was that they would be true to their music, because he was very funny about someone just throwing something together. He can have an album finished and wouldn't release it because unless it could possibly get any better, it was not time to release it. He was like a scientist with the music. It had to be perfect.

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JOHNSON: Christopher Johnson, NPR News.

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GORDON: You can sample some of J Dilla's music on our website at npr.org.

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That's our program for today. Thanks for joining us. To listen to the show, visit NPR.org. NEWS AND NOTES WAS created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS AND NOTES.

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