Influential hip-hop producer James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla, will be the subject of a new feature-length documentary from producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots) and Joseph Patel, the team behind the Academy Award-winning Summer of Soul, per The Hollywood Reporter. The non-fiction film, titled Dilla Time, will celebrate Dilla’s “brief life and pervasive and largely uncredited influence.”

“Explaining musical genius is my mission. To be able to tell the world about the musician that had the most influence on me is a dream come true,” said Questlove, a former collaborator and longtime proponent of Dilla’s greatness, in a statement. “Not just on me, but on an entire generation of musicians that everyone knows and loves. J Dilla was our teacher. And what he taught us was how to feel rhythm in a way we had never felt before. I’m so honored to be a part of bringing his story to the world through this documentary.”

Related: Yancey Taught Me: Examining The Life, Legacy, & Genius Of J Dilla [Video/Audio]

The documentary will take its cues from the New York Times best-selling 2022 biography by Dan Charnas, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm. The project chronicles the life of the Detroit-born artist, who died at age 32 of a rare blood disease and earned much of his acclaim posthumously. It also dives into Dilla’s impact on modern pop music, most notably through his unique use of the drum machine. Dilla Time is described in a project synopsis as “part biography, part musicology, and part musical meditation, featuring insight from some of the most influential and innovative voices of modern music.” Charnas is set to serve as a partner on the film project. Read Live For Live Music‘s full feature interview with Dan Charnas about his Dilla Time book here.

For the new Dilla Time documentary, Questlove and his Two One Five Entertainment production company will once again team with his Summer of Soul counterpart Patel, who will direct the film alongside Darby Wheeler. Cinetic Media and Scenario Media are also partners on the project, and Thompson’s Two One Five partners Zarah Zolhman, Shawn Gee, and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter will serve as executive producers.

The project is being produced in cooperation with the late Yancey’s estate, which benefits his two children, younger brother, and mother. Pay Jay Productions, Inc., the production arm of Dilla’s estate, said in a statement that it was “proud to give its blessing to an amazing project created by discerning and talented filmmakers who knew J Dilla. … We trust the judgment of Ahmir, Joseph, Dan, and Scenario to elevate Dilla’s life, music, and legacy to their rightful place in the canon of music’s great innovators; and their film is the only documentary project we have endorsed.”

Read Dan Charnas’s thoughts on the new Dilla Time documentary below.


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