J. Dilla is one of hip-hop's most significant musical and cultural figures for a reason. His mastery of production defined an era in urban music; he may not have dominated the charts like hitmakers such as Timbaland and Pharrell, but Dilla's music was the soundtrack for the soul--and it was felt by fans of hip-hop and R&B that hearkened back to both genre's classic periods.

From his groundbreaking tenure with Slum Village, Dilla's work with some of the most iconic artists of all time, including A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Common, the Roots, Pharcyde and a host of others helped re-shape the sound of hip-hop and soul; while he remixed everyone from Janet Jackson to Whitney Houston--his artistry reaching even the biggest superstars in popular music.

We lost Dilla in 2006 at the age of 32, after his battle with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura hospitalized him, and he died from cardiac arrest. But we'll never lose Dilla's music. His legacy is as strong as ever.

Happy Birthday!



The 25 Greatest Rap Albums of 1996