‘Like Water For Chocolate’ by Common is 20-years-old today

Cover art for Like Water for Chocolate

Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Commons fourth studio release Like Water for Chocolate.

Like Water for Chocolate is the introduction of the production team Soulquarians. It consisted of Dilla, ?uestlove, D’Angelo, James Poyser and Pino Palladino. This collective created a canvas for Common to showcase his skill and his soul.

“Funky for You” one of my favorite songs seeps into your spirit. Dilla’s drums are all over it. Bilal and Jill Scott’s voices ring like a mantra singing “As long as it’s funky alright, ok” Common floats over the production and that South Side Chicago sensibility blesses the rhythm.

Funky For You

Like Water for Chocolate ushered in a new sound and created a lane for Common as the consciousness of Hip Hop.The biggest hit and single from the album is “The Light” and the video featuring Erykah Badu helped to launch Common into a different space as he proved that rap can also be romantic and loving. I remember being so moved by that song that it inspired me to propose to my now ex-wife.

“The Light” by Common

The best projects teach you something. Because of this album I know who Fela Kuti is “Time Travelin’ (A Tribute to Fela)” and “A Song for Assata” made me take a real look at freedom and what people have sacrificed for my freedom and theirs.

A Song for Assata

The boldness and spirit of this album is why it has stood the test of time. The tile of the album is inspired by the novel of the same name. Common explains in an interview why he chose it. “Actually the album is named after a movie of the same title. In the movie the main character was a really good cook. She would always be cooking for people. Whenever she would cook, she would really put a lot of emotion into it. So when people would eat her cooking, they were able to feel the same emotions she felt while cooking it. You feel me? So this is the same thing. I put all my heart, my mind and my rawness into these tracks. So I hope that people can feel that when they listen to the album” he said

Congratulations Common for this milestone. Thank you for repping the South Side of Chicago and the culture of Hip Hop the way that you do.

-Precise

Stream “It’s On Me” by Precise

5 songs you didn’t know Dilla produced

Dilla

It’s Dilla month. We celebrate the life of one of the best producers we have ever been blessed to hear. Dilla was an extremely prolific producer. Much of his greatest work is with his group Slum Village, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Common and of course on his own project “Welcome to Detroit.

Dilla had beat tapes circulate the world once people discovered his genius. As a result, a lot of his work may be uncredited or has traveled under the radar and out of the scope of the mainstream. One thing for sure is you can’t mistake that J Dilla bump. It’s a groove. It’s a vibe.

Lets take a moment and listen to 5 songs Dilla produced that you may not have been aware of.

  1. Janet Jackson “Got Till it’s Gone”

When I first heard this song I’m not sure I was fully aware who Dilla was yet. But according to stories I have heard about this production Q Tip who was working with Dilla and basically presented him to all of his friends shared this track with Janet Jackson and she was instantly hooked. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis took credit for this production, but the word got out as to who did the work. This may be one of the first introductions of Dilla’s prowess to the mainstream culture.

2. The Brand New Heavies “Sometimes (Ummah Remix)

The Brand New Heavies were a force to be reckoned with during the Neo-Soul movement. They were driven by live instrumentation and an R&B vibe. This specific song mentions that this song was remixed by The Ummah. The Ummah was a production collective that consisted of Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Raphael Sasdiq, Q Tip and J Dilla. By this point the cat was out of the bag and Dilla was known more in the industry. So even though this is an Ummah remix you can still hear Dilla’s bump all over this.

3. Black Star “Little Brother”

As an avid fan of the legendary rap group Black Star I thought I knew a lot about them. Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def and Talib Kweli are two of my favorite emcees. I had a pretty good idea of the production they used. Imagine my surprise when I found out that “Little Brother” a single used for “The Hurricane” soundtrack featuring Denzel Washington was produced by Dilla. Whats even more amazing is to hear the way this song was produced. It is awe inspiring and speaks directly to Dilla’s genius. Google “Questlove on J Dilla’s sampling techniques ” to hear that story.

4. D’Angelo “Feel Like Makin’ Love

“Voodo” by D’Angelo is arguably his greatest work. The recording of that album took place at the legendary Electric Lady Studio’s where legendary projects by Common, Erykah Badu and The Roots were recorded. This song was recorded because Lauryn “Miss Hill” Hill missed a session. Dilla is ALL over this one.

5. A Tribe Called Quest “Find My Way”

This song comes from a Tribe album that wasn’t well received initially but has since grown to be a classic. The Love Movement had a different sound. It was jazzy but still hip-hop. Its had class and bottom. All of these a Dilla traits. The Ummah is credited for production on this but as always Dilla’s influence is evident and seeps into your soul.

6.Tupac “Do For Love” . BONUS!!!

I know I said 5 but this one had to mentioned because it features two of Hip-Hop’s greatest. This is one I just realized thanks to a post by Andrew Barber on twitter. Tupac and Dilla on a track together is truly heaven!

For context on this Tupac joint.

I’m sure I missed a few. What are some of your favorite Dilla productions. Share in the comments.

Stream “Speak Life” by Precise

Dilla treasures found in storage unit

J Dilla

Happy birthday to James “J Dilla” Yancy. Today the announcement of Jay Electronica finally releasing his album in 40 days feels like a present from the legendary producer. Dilla would have been 46 years-old today. He left an indelible mark on the world with his style of production. The soul of his creations permeates the mind and allows the listener to travel with him on a journey.

A few years ago while listening to Snap Judgement on NPR I came across this amazing story. It speaks to how Dilla has managed to continue to touch lives and keep his legacy alive through his music. Imagine coming across a J Dilla beat tape out of the blue. Check out the story below.

Stream “Speak Life” by Precise