Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla Is Awarded Best Book Cover of the Year by The New York Times

Dilla Time by Dan Charnas

Designed by Rodrigo Corral

Illustration by Matt Buck

Big ups to Dan Charnas for Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm landing a spot in The New York Times “The Best Book Covers of 2022” round-up. 

What could have been a lazy visual appeal to the subject’s vanity is instead an image that signals the zones of his many talents while nodding to the relationship between that talent and work ethic (and beats). Also the author was selfless enough to leave his name off the front.

– Matt Dorfman

A compelling and exhaustive work, Dilla Time is unconventional journalism presented at its best. “Equal parts biography, musicology, and cultural history,” Dilla Time is the result of four years of researching and reporting, pulling from nearly 200 interviews. Mojo Magazine says it created “a new gold standard for writing about music.” Charnas comes from a generation of writers who helped create hip-hop journalism and even developed a course on Dilla at NYU in 2017.

Known for a drunk and laid-back style, J Dilla AKA Jay Dee came up in the underground hip-hop scene in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-90s. The late producer produced ingenious methods and sounds, giving fans and fellow artists a new creative lens for approaching music. Dilla time refers to the new musical time-feel Dilla pioneered where he juxtaposed both straight and swing rhythmic feels. He elevated the art of sampling and “took instrumental hip-hop into new, more musically complex realms.”

Photo by Rafael Rashid, from the book Behind the Beat.

From the Dilla disciple to the fellow rap nerds to the uninformed, but curious, many have commented that Dilla Time is hard to put down. Charnas’s goal was to justify the near deification of Dilla while humanizing the revered producer through storytelling.

Ultimately it’s really about me saying to everybody who loves Dilla: You were not wrong. Your affection was not misplaced…He is special, more special than many of you all even know.

– Dan Charnas

Grab yours here.

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