J Dilla Dies

Hip-hop producer J Dilla, whose soulful beats formed the backdrop to songs by artists like Common and A Tribe Called Quest, died Friday of complications from lupus, his manager said. He was 32.

J Dilla, or Jay Dee, was born James Yancey and raised in Detroit.

He had been living with his mother in Los Angeles since being diagnosed with the immune system disease about three years ago, said his manager, Timothy Maynor.

Yancey had formed the trio Slum Village in the late 1990s but left after its successful first album to pursue a solo career. In 2003, he teamed with fellow rapper-producer Madlib for the critically acclaimed Champion Sound in which each rapped over the other’s beats.

Detroit rapper Phat Kat, whose real name is Ron Watts, said Yancey’s unique style blending claps, drum machines and samples helped change the sound of modern hip-hop.

“That’s really where all the other cats are getting that style,” Watts said. “It came from the soul. Old Detroit soul music.”

Yancey contributed tracks to The Pharcyde‘s second album, 1995’s Labcabincalifornia, produced much of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement in 1998, and worked with Common on several albums.

His most recent CD, the instrumental Donuts, was released Tuesday. He had also finished recording a compilation album called Welcome To Detroit, Vol. 2 that Watts said will be released.

Although his joints hurt, his kidneys had been weakened and he had appeared sickly recently, Maynor said Yancey remained in good spirits. He had been on dialysis for about two years when his mother found him unresponsive in his room Friday morning.

“He was optimistic about working on future projects and doing future shows,” Maynor told The Associated Press. “We went over to Europe in December (to tour). He was sickly but at the same time, he wanted to be there. I told him, I’m prepared to carry you, if I have to carry you down stairs and put you on stage.”

Lupus is a disease in which a person’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body’s normal, healthy cells.

— Associated Press