For some of his Day One supporters (those familiar with 5 Elementz, for example), the recent explosion of all things Dilla can be perplexing. A cross-section of his newer fans are not necessarily fluent in his vast repertoire, unable to name projects outside ofDonuts, the commercial success of which was boosted due to its release only three days before his death. Similarly, despite his tremendous popularity, Dilla manages to remain an emphatic representative of the underground; his name is rarely mentioned when average Rap fans discuss the most influential artists who’ve passed away. In that sense, he has less in common with Pun, Biggie, and Tupac, whose repertoires were consumed by the masses while they were still alive. Nevertheless, interest in his discography has spiked, thanks in no small part to the roles played by co-signers. Artists, fans, family, media outlets, and formal institutions have all contributed to his veneration, both in the low- and high-brow realms; from his uncle’s “Dilla’s Delights” donut shop in Detroit to the fans who fought for Allée Jay Dee in Montpellier. Cultural curators continue to drive up Dilla stock, a process they began almost immediately after his February 2006 death.
One of the earliest and loudest tributes from within the Hip-Hop community came from Dave Chappelle, who at the height of his fame dedicated his Block Party documentary DVD to the late producer. The film was released nationwide one month after Dilla’s passing, adding particular poignancy to a musical doc that so much revolved around the Soulquarians, the family of creatives including Common, Erykah Badu, and Questlove, of which Dilla was a member. The same month as the Block Party release, The Roots began recording what would become Game Theory, their seventh album and one imbued from beginning to end with the spirit of Dilla. The first and last tracks served as musical nods to his contributions, the former being the Jay Dee-produced “Dilltastic Vol Won(derful)” and the latter an eight-minute compilation of spoken tributes to the tune of his “Time: The Donut of the Heart.”