The late-James “J Dilla” Yancey was without a doubt one of the most influential record producers that Hip-Hop has ever seen. The Detroit-native was a top prospect among major record labels in the mid-1990’s and the driving force behind Slum Village. He would go on to work with such influential artists as The Pharcyde, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, The Roots, and Common.
Tragically, his health began to deteriorate in 2005, when it was revealed he had been diagnosed with a rare, but fatal blood disease.
J Dilla died just three days after the release of his final studio album, Donuts, leaving behind some rather enormous shoes to fill.
It is blasphemous to so much as suggest another Hip-Hop producer could even come close to possessing the talents and musical wherewithal of the late J Dilla, but it isn’t unreasonable to believe that there are other producers just as elusive and influential. In fact, another producer from his hometown has been making a name for himself—albeit one that has changed several times over the past few years—with his complex instrumentals.
Dakim, also known as the “beat sage” Saafron, has been putting out beats left and right for more than six years. He first started releasing instrumentals in 2011, a short while after signing with Leaving Records, an imprint started by Matthew David McQueen in 2009 and an affiliate of Peanut Butter Wolf’s independent Hip-Hop label, Stones Throw Records.
Perhaps it was sheer coincidence that brought Dakim to sign with the same label that once released J Dilla’s instrumentals, or perhaps it was fate.
Although they are both vastly different individuals with different musical tastes, both have received high praise from some of the biggest names in the global beat and underground Hip-Hop communities.
On the surface, Dakim is far more in the vein of experimental electronic than his beat making predecessor.
But, if you take a closer look at his catalog of instrumentals, you will see how—much like J Dilla—several of these tracks stand out on their own, without any vocals or lyrics.
His most recent work, Reishi, was released last year, under his new pseudonym, Saafron. The album features a variety of instrumentals as well as numerous references to the hit Japanese anime, Dragon Ball Z.
Any DBZ fans out there will get a kick out of tracks, such as “Destructo Disc,” “Mtulazaji (Spirit Bomb),” and “Special Beam” all of which are methods of attack featured in Akira Toriyama’s early-’90s cartoon show.
Another of the noteworthy highlight was the track, “Penobscot,” which uses smooth, broken-key samples to concoct a more modern “trap” beat sound.
Unfortunately, Dakim is known to be the reclusive type and rarely makes live appearances. However, he did perform a very memorable 36-minute set of instrumentals for Boiler Room Los Angeles back in 2013.
It’s a tough pill to swallow to envision another sitting on Jay Dee’s throne. No matter how anyone feels about the comparison, Dakim deserves to be known as more than just “the producer’s producer.”
Watch: Dakim Live at the Boiler Room