‘Big Booty Express’

James Yancey

J Dilla was a hugely talented and respected hip hop producer, and it’s a bit depressing when his name and image are sometimes used with Che Guevara-like frivolity, becoming nothing more than a cool t-shirt. But the majority of his ever-growing fanbase are sincere in their admiration, and his music will certainly remain influential in the hip hop community.

Hip hop was no doubt his main love, but growing up in Detroit, and being interested in all music styles, he would undeniably have also been influenced by the techno scene. My favourite track he ever did was ‘B.B.E. (Big Booty Express)’ from his ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’ album. ‘Big Booty Express’ sounds like a track Derrick May would have produced had he been a bit more laid back, and the production on this relatively basic track can’t be faulted. Like the best of techno, it transports you into a future world, but instead of the sterile futures envisioned by May, Juan Atkins et al, Dilla’s track is a world were sex and machines are symbiotic.

In the liner notes to ‘Welcome To Detroit’, Dilla states that ‘Big Booty Express’ was “his baby”, and I remember reading an interview around this time where he said that he often felt he had to focus exclusively on hip hop because that’s what was expected of him, but that in truth techno was also in his blood. The album was originally planned as a breakbeat album, but the label Barely Breaking Even told him he could do whatever he wanted – it’s perhaps a coded “thankyou” that Dilla called this track ‘B.B.E.’.

When I was starting my label, I was planning on getting in touch with Dilla and asking him if he’d like to do an album of tracks in the ‘Big Booty Express’ world. But I wanted to wait until my label was established before asking him… So from a selfish point of view I was gutted when I found out that he’d died. I can’t help imagine what that album would have sounded like. I wonder what his fans would have made of it.

Posted by Manny Z


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