Dilla was, perhaps, the only hip-hop producer to have studied the cello ("Not the instrument of choice in the ghetto," as his mother puts it in the sleevenotes) as a child, and his work is full of the sort of subtle but powerful differences that a composition-based education might provide, as Atwood-Ferguson noticed when he broke down the pieces ahead of arranging them for the orchestra.
"Dilla loves five-bar loops," he says. "He loves sevens and elevens as well, but within the phrases of five, he will have different parts of the beat looped in threes, fives and sevens a lot as well. Two of my other favorite musicians, Billie Holliday and Elvin Jones, very naturally phrase in three, five, and seven as well, without even seemingly being consciously of it."
The normal hip-hop loop will be a strict four-bar pattern, but Atwood-Ferguson doesn't think Dilla was ever trying to be unsettling or overly technical. "He just loved the effect music could have on himself and others," he says. "As listeners, we're not supposed to notice those things. Dilla was purely about expression, he was trying to say that life is beautiful, we are lucky to live it, we need go for whatever it is that is in our hearts."
T I M E L E S S .