It’s been over a decade since the passing of the late, great James Dewitt Yancey—better known as J Dilla. But his music continues to live on for his fans who keep his timeless productions in rotation. He’s been called everything from the Mozart of Hip-Hop to jazz’s latest innovator, with artists like The Roots and Madlib making their own tributes to him and his unmatched ability to pick out the perfect sample for a track.
The latest J. Dilla offering comes from South African collective SPAZABASS via their eight-track EP Kwaito Dilla Jazz. It’s a reinterpretation of some of his most classic beats, including a polyrhythmic adaptation of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Find a Way,” a jazzy rendition of Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” and a version of Common’s “Love is…” that turns Marvin Gaye’s sample into a mantra with bounce to it.
Kwaito is a distinctly South African genre that originated in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, and gained popularity with the youth during the 1990s. Although it was often compared to American hip-hop at the time because of its spoken vocals full of politically-charged lyrics over bass-filled instrumentals, it has a unique sound of its own that mixes elements of house and traditional African rhythms.
The collective combines live instruments and Kwaito’s signature heavy bass lines with a jazzy touch to give Dilla’s immortal sound some global flavor. They do well at providing much more than just a remix to his songs. They reimagine them with style. It’s a vibe.