A line wrapped around Washington, DC's Howard Theatre on the night of Friday, July 10th urged U Street residents to wonder who was in the building. The answer? Everyone. The Howard Theatre held a full house of excited hip hop fans who came from near and even as far as Switzerland to watch artists like Common, Slum Village, J*Davey, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Muhsinah and so many more more during the 10th Annual DC Loves Dilla tribute. Artists descended upon DC to celebrate the life and legacy of producer James Dewitt Yancey, aka J Dilla. Backed by Jon Laine and The Players, the show took its time starting but once it did, each artist gave their own rendition of Dilla's most loved hits. DC Loves Dilla uses a formula that works, highlighting the work of the creative producer with local DC talent alongside national artists.
Rapper Tislam performed Dilla's "Let's Ride," and later Wayna came on to infuse her exotic flair into "Didn't Cha Know." Black Alley's frontwoman Kacey performed "Runnin." After dynamic performances from RAtheMC, Debórah Bond and Alison Carney, singer/rapper Wes Felton kept the show going and got the audience thinking when he performed Q-Tip's "Breathe and Stop." While he did tribute Dilla, Felton felt it in his spirit to also tribute Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and other police violence victims by changing the chorus to "I can’t breathe and stop," to which the audience chimed in in unison. As you can imagine, the night was long, but with performance after performance, the tributes moved along smoothly and with energy as host Grap Luva kept the audience entertained with his anecdotes about Dilla, his outfit changes and unique footwork.
Songstress Muhsinah graced the stage to perform "Nothing Like This" along with J*Davey, who were announced the day before the tribute. Georgia Anne Muldrow followed with her powerhouse voice singing "Roses" and another favorite over Dilla beats. While the audience didn't want her soulful self to leave the stage, it was time for Slum Village, who were celebrating the 15th anniversary of Fantastic, Vol. 2. The group hopped on stage to an excited crowd who sang along as the group performed "Fall In Love," "I Don't Know," "Expressive," "Players" and the energetic single "Raise It Up." Rappers T3 and Young RJ skillfully worked both sides of the stage, keeping the audience's energy up as they exchanged bars from tracks old and new.
Bringing some more soul back to the stage, surprise guest Musiq Soulchild appeared to a shocked and excited crowd. The crooner mixed De La Soul's "Stakes Is High" with his single "B.U.D.D.Y." and Dilla's "Get A Hold" with his single "Just Friends." After Musiq's eclectic and jazz-filled tribute, Chi-town rapper Common came on stage well past midnight, performing "Get Up" and "Love Is" with singers Maimouna Youssef and J Hill. Com also did one of his signature freestyles, reminding us that he was in DC by giving a shout out to Howard University. He later performed "Thelonius" along with Slum Village, wrapping the show and its amazing performances up in a perfect bow.
Musician Amp Fiddler, who had an extensive relationship with Dilla, hopes that the love of music and creativity continues through Dilla. "I really hope that they remember that we should always strive for excellence and that we should always strive for innovation," Fiddler stated. "And I think that should stick to people's minds when they think about Dilla. He cultivated the music to a point where it always kept its creativity."
When asked why the Dilla tribute was important to continue, Slum Village's Young RJ said, "Because it continues his legacy for other generations. When you have an event like that you know people may not know who Dilla is but they know Common, they know who Slum Village is or Musiq, and they'll come just to see those artists perform and then end up going to look up Dilla. It's become like a cult following."