Classics: J Dilla feat. Common & D’Angelo – So Far To Go (BBE)
‘So Far To Go’… And God knows how the man tragically happened to have so far to go. This before at least being released from his sufferings with his passing in February 2006.
‘So Far To Go’ is the least we could say about this cool jam built on a complex amalgamation of samples as a matter of fact. Meanwhile embedding elements of The Isley Brothers‘ ‘Don’t Say Goodnight’. But also Junie Morrison‘s ‘Tight Rope’. This in addition to fragments of Soft Machine‘s ‘As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still’.
‘So Far To Go’ appeared as a part of J Dilla‘s second album – ‘The Shining’ – released posthumously on UK label BBE. This with its recording completed by his friend and fellow Detroit Hip-Hop artist Karriem Riggins. Besides, an alternative version saw the light on Common‘s ‘Finding Forever’ album the year after, back in 2007…
– A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Busta Rhymes… But also Erykah Badu, The Pharcyde, The Roots… As many names (and more) J Dilla has been collaborating with. Meanwhile most likely standing as one of the most influential Hip-Hop artists. And justifiably being considered as a legend…
With Detroit fellow Amp Fiddler bringin’ him support back in 1992, his creativity seemed like havin’ no limits. He along with MC Phat Kat would be the first Detroit Hip-Hop act to sign on a major label (as 1st Down). This before giving birth to the memorable Slum Village with T3 and Baatin.
With a rare humility, most of his works (productions, remixes) in the mid-90’s would see the light without a mention to his own name. But the one of a Ummah. In other words a collective comprising Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of ATCQ. Then eventually Raphael Saadiq a bit later. J Dilla would then craft the majority of The Pharcyde‘s ‘Labcabincalifornia’ album. With the beginning of the 2000 seeing him teaming up with L.A.-based producer MC Madlib as Jaylib…
Despite the seriousness of his health condition J toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. This was to be his last public appearance prior to his death 3 months later.
J Dilla sadly died on Feb. 10, 2006 in his home in Los Angeles, CA. This from thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease. He was 32…
– A native of Richmond, VA, Michael Eugene Archer was raised in a Pentecostal family. His older brother, Luther, eventually discovered his appetency for music when he was 3. This most likely being of a help considering the man plays so many differents instruments. From keys to guitars (rhythmic and bass). But also drums, percussion and saxophone in addition to singing. Thus pretty much helping him to perpetuate the concept of the R&B author. On the heels of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Prince who stand among his aboslute references.
He had a brief affiliation with Hip-Hop group I.D.U. (Intelligent, Deadly but Unique) before signing a publishing deal with EMI back in 1991. Then, two years after, he signed a record deal as an artist. With manager Kedar Massenburg helpin’ him to negotiate its terms.
D’Angelo‘s first significant success came the year after with the hit single ‘U Will Know’. A firing gem which he co-wrote and produced for B.M.U. (Black Men United). A R&B supergroup featuring luminaries such as Raphael Saadiq, R. Kelly, Usher and Brian McKnight among others. A cut which initially appeared as a part of the ‘Jason’s Lyric’ OST. In addition to this, he also wrote and produced ‘Overjoyed’ for the Boys Choir Of Harlem that same year.
‘Brown Sugar’, his debut-album, hit the streets in June 1995, selling an average 35,000 to 40,000 copies a week during the 6 months that followed its release. With thanks to its memorable singles such as its title cut, ‘Cruisin” and ‘Lady’.
Strangely enough, it took five years to see D’Angelo returning with a new album. First because he’d spent two years to promote ‘Brown Sugar’ while touring. But also because he came to experience what all those who’re creating are fearing. In other words, the writer’s block! Speakin’ of this period of creative paralysis, D’Angelo had the following words in Entertainment Weekly… “The thing about writer’s block is that you want to write so fµ**ing bad. But the songs don’t come out that way. They come from life. So you’ve got to live to write…”
Missing inspiration for himself, he eventually worked on a bunch of cover versions. And he also came to contribute to other artists’ projects as a musician. From Faith Evans‘ ‘You Used To Love Me’. To The Roots‘ ‘The Hypnotic’ from their ‘Illadelph Halflife’ album. Joinin’ J Dilla under The Ummah umbrella on his remix of Janet Jackson‘s ‘Got ‘Til It’s Gone’ featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell. Then doin’ the same on ‘Nothing Even Matters’ from Lauryn Hill‘s ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ album. Eventually writing the mesmerizing ‘Everyday’ for Angie Stone, from her ‘Black Diamond’ album. And heavily contributing to the production of Common‘s 2000 ‘Like Water For Chocolate’. And appearing among others on keyboards on ‘Time Travelin’ (A Tribute To Fela)’ featuring Femi Kuti and Vinia Mojica along with Roy Hargrove on trumpet.
A member of the Soulquarians, an informed Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop collective, brought him to collaborate with many of its protagonists. From Common to Q-Tip, Pino Palladino and Q-Tip. Not to mention the late J Dilla. Remember his version of ‘So Far To Go’ along with Common on Dilla‘s posthumously released ‘The Shining’ album on UK label BBE.
The much delayed ‘Voodoo’ finally saw the light to critical acclaim by the end of January 2000. An album which spanned 5 singles. Beginning with ‘Devil’s Pie’ which he co-produced along with DJ Premier. Then ‘Left & Right’ featuring Method Man and Redman. But also ‘Send It On’, co-written by Angie Stone and his brother, Luther. Not to mention his cover version of Roberta Flack‘s classic ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’.
And the list would be incomplete without a mention of ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’, the third single from the album. A song which he co-wrote with Raphael Saadiq as a tribute to Prince. Something you could definitely tell when listening to it. Meanwhile its kinda provocative video would have a considerable impact on D’Angelo recording career. Most likely engendering an image of him as a sex icon which he deeply disliked. Leading him to take his distance from the music scene for ages. And eventually goin’ thru a long period of struggles of all sorts.
We had to wait until 2011 and a European tour to see D’Angelo premiering a bunch of new songs. However, his third studio album – ‘Black Messiah’ (officially credited to D’Angelo & The Vanguard) – didn’t see the light before the end of 2014. Thus bringin’ an end to a 14-year hiatus.
Its first offshot – Really Love’ – appeared at the same time. Co-written with Vanguard member, Kendra Foster, it saw a contribution from Gina Figueroa who wrote and performed its Spanish spoken word segment. The whole over a sample of Curtis Mayfield‘s ‘We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue’. Meanwhile, ‘The Charade’ happened to be issued as a limited-edition seven-inch single for Record Store Day on May 01, 2015.
Another four years have gone since the release of the latter, and D’Angelo has resuraced with a new song – ‘Unshaken’ – as a part of the soundtrack of the ‘Red Dead Redemption II’ video game. With rumors circulating about the current recording of extra material that might explain the cancellation of an initially planned European tour.