Quantisation, in music production is a way of removing rhythmic mistakes or imperfections by locking the beat to a grid. But those imperfections and accidents can so often contribute to making the music we love.
In the late 90’s, visionary producer J Dilla, along with other members of the hugely influential collective The Soulquarians, pioneered a new rhythmic feel in Hip Hop, Soul and Jazz. From then onwards it rooted itself in music, becoming considerably influential. It is perhaps even more popular today than ever before, with artists such as Nao, Tom Misch, The 1975 and Dua Lipa adopting a form of the Dilla feel within their own work.
Without the use of quantisation, J Dilla’s unique feel could be described rhythmically as lying somewhere in between a straight and swung groove and often involves playing slightly behind the beat. Dilla humanised the drum machine and not only influenced other beat makers and producers but drummers and musicians too. Questlove from The Roots (the powerhouse band behind The Soulquarians) said J Dilla single-handedly changed the way he played the drums.
The list is endless but here are a few of my favourite tracks that utilise that satisfyingly wonky Dilla feel…