Dan Charnas has written other important, evocative books about the business of music industries. However, Dilla Time is his magnum opus. Documenting Detroit hip-hop producer James Dewitt Yancy’s (aka Jay Dee and J. Dilla) story, Charnas creates a cyclone of corporal relational tension that is indelibly linked to Dilla’s formation of sonic deconstruction, time feel, and sound sequencing. As whimsical with prose as an emcee is with bars, Charnas wields words in ways that transform readers into visual imagineers. Reading Dilla Time is like watching a documentary in a planetarium-sized space and being late for unexpected sounding beats.

The book is organized into 16 chapters that thematize Dilla’s tumultuous musical life. Charnas assigns chapter names, such as “Wrong,” “Straight Time”/“Swing Time,” “Machine Time,” “Sample time,” “Dilla Time,” “Pay Jay,” “Partners,” and “Fragments.” The biographical side of Charnas' prose reads like a page-turning novel, while his richly historicized and highly technical...

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