It’s late 1959 And it’s our good fortune to have New hymns for our northern souls.’
THE SMOKEY ROBINSON EFFECT
Where does genius like that come from? Musical inspiration is often a cacophony of lifelong sound; the rhythms a child hears around the house, melodies sneaking out from under an older sibling’s bedroom door, the nostalgic sound of someone’s voice and very often language itself. It was poetry that led Smokey Robinson to the musicality of words. In his childhood, he found the beauty and cadence of words spoken out loud by his Aunt when she would read him poems from her notebook. Now, at 81, Robinson (always the innovator) is exploring the rhythms and poetry of a new language. He taught himself Spanish and is releasing his first ever album recorded in a second language.
The Detroit Rising NFT series was created by renowned Detroit artist and activist Tyree Guyton. For these original creations, Tyree was given audio elements from the interview with Robinson. The resulting NFT series he produced consists of 2-D works, motion graphics presentations and a written testimony to his own scope of experience. Both animated pieces feature original audio of Smokey Robinson playing piano.
“Smokey Robinson and the Motown music was a medicine,”
ALSO KNOWN AS J DILLA
By the time Dilla turned 20, hip hop legends like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and even Jay Z were coming to Detroit to seek out the producer prodigy. Then, Dilla bridged the gap between the old world and the new when at the turn of the millennium he began collaborating with Questlove, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and the neo-soul set forming a collective known as the Soulquarians.
Dilla’s genius was evident early on and throughout his career. His mother, known now in the hip hop world as Ma Dukes, says James used to work word search puzzles for hours on end often identifying words that she didn’t even realize he knew. Then it was Questlove who delivered the now famous analogy about Dilla’s supernatural skills at creating beats with samples when he said, “It was like watching someone solve a 10,000 word puzzle in record time.”
Dilla passed away at the age of 32 in 2007, accomplishing more in those three decades and two years than most people will in a lifetime. His legacy, however, is still shining today. In 2010, the multi-instrumentalist composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson interpreted Dilla’s music with a 60-piece orchestra celebrating Dilla and his musical influences. The work was entitled Suite for Ma Dukes and was both recorded and presented live at such prestigious institutions as Lincoln Center in New York City and the Barbican in London.
In 2014, Ma Dukes donated the super producer’s MPC along with his Moog synthesizer to the Smithsonian Institution’s African American History Museum.
The unprecedented Detroit Rising NFT series created by artist Desiree Kelly, in collaboration with Ma Dukes, offers rare insight into Dilla’s early life and presents the first works of art from the life of J Dilla the world has been given since his passing. The series features two animated sequences based on the interview with Ma Dukes along with word search puzzles that give a nod to the gamification of NFTs but that are rooted in old school tenets. One word search features six J Dilla song titles. The other six feature one song title each. In order to solve these puzzles, you'll have to get familiar with the work of one of hip hop's most innovative producers.