It Took Dilla 12 Minutes to Make A Tribe Called Quest's “Get a Hold”
A Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes & Life served as many people’s first exposure to J Dilla. Though he went on to become one of the most iconic figures in hip-hop history, in 1996 he was still an emerging producer. As an unknown quantity, his work with Tribe and the subsequent change in sound from Midnight Marauders was a shock to the system for some die-hard fans. Many have warmed to the album over time, but some people had trouble adjusting to the stylistic change that occurred on Beats, Rhymes & Life and The Love Movement when Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Dilla, and Q-Tip came together to form The Ummah.
Q-Tip’s production on the first three Tribe albums laid a foundation for the group and showed an uncanny ability to layer samples from a variety of sources on songs like “Award Tour”. Though it took fans of Tribe’s first albums some time to get used to, Dilla’s filters, signature drums, and unconventional sample chops were another important stepping stone in the group’s evolution. A stepping stone that DJ, Producer, and Street Corner Music label owner House Shoes was lucky enough to witness.
“Just to chop the loop up, put it on top, took him like two, three minutes.”
Shoes, a long time collaborator and friend of Dilla, first saw the legendary producer craft a beat when he made the haunting “Get a Hold”, the second song on Beats, Rhymes & Life. According to a Shoes interview with Ego Trip, the session took place in “a small, damn near cubicle sized pre-production room at RJ Rice’s studio.” In a cramped, less-than-glamorous space, all Dilla needed was a few minutes to make one of the album’s stand out tracks.
“It probably took him about 12 minutes to make, and he was getting frustrated,” House Shoes told Stussy for their J Dilla documentary. “He was getting frustrated on the drums…Finally got ’em and then just to chop the loop up, put it on top, took him like two, three minutes.”
It only took Dilla a matter of minutes, but the song left an impression on Shoes. “Imagine the chills seeing it be made,” he said while recalling the experience on Twitter. “The way he rearranged the vocals,” he told Ego Trip. “‘Suddenly… drifting baaack…’ Nobody is fucking with Jay.”
Hearing that it took Dilla 12 minutes to make a track might make a young producer self-conscious of their output. According to Shoes, working at breakneck speed was an everyday thing for the Detroit producer. “Eighty to ninety percent of all these drops that people have heard, 15 minutes,” he said. “15, 20 minutes tops.”