James Dewitt Yancey, AKA Jay Dee, AKA J Dilla would have turned 41 today.

One of the most influential producers of modern hip-hop and soul, he was a musical genius, inspiring artists in all genres of music with his ability to make the most perfect beats. 

Yancey grew up in the Conant Gardens neighborhood of Detroit, MI. His mother was a singer and his father played bass and piano. Together, they formed an acapella jazz group, so there was always singing and music in the house. He started making beats at just 11 years old, and by the time he was in his early 20s, he was making beats for A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, and others. His music perfectly embodied Detroit hip-hop, but artists around the world loved it, and wanted to use it. 

Dilla was probably one of the few hip-hop artists to ever study cello. His background was so unique. He died of lupus on February 10, 2006, just days after his 32nd birthday. Even in death, his legacy lives on as one of the great producers of all time.

To celebrate his life, HotNewHipHop spoke with some of the artists that Dilla inspired most.