Pioneering Detroit hip-hop artist J Dilla's equipment donated to the Smithsonian

(WXYZ) - Pioneering Detroit hip-hop artist James "J Dilla" Yancey is now enshrined in the Smithsonian as part of the collection at the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

J Dilla's custom-made Minamoog Voyager synthesizer and Akai MIDI Production Center 3000 Limited Edition have been donated to the museum by his mother, Maureen Yancey. They will be part of the "Musical Crossroads" exhibit when the museum opens in 2016.

"Musical Crossroads" will be one of the museum's 11 inaugural exhibitions, and will also feature artists like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, George Clinton and Chuck D.

“J Dilla’s body of work is a testament to creativity and innovation, the very elements on which hip-hop was founded,” said Timothy Anne Burnside in a press release. Burnside is a popular-music historian for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who worked with Yancey’s mother to secure the J Dilla collection. “He was fearlessly dedicated to music, following in the footsteps of many musical greats; as a child he first danced to James Brown, and like Duke Ellington, he was uncannily versatile. It is in the company of the greats that he belongs.”

J Dilla is considered by many to be one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the 1990s and early 2000s, releasing more than 15 albums before his death from Lupus in 2006. Artists like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar still sample his music today.

“Everyone who pays attention to hip-hop has heard J Dilla’s work whether they realize it or not,” Burnside said. “In the very demanding world of hip-hop producers, he was one of the busiest and most sought-after. He had a way of making his signature sound and creating something unique for the people he collaborated with. He could create a beat for anyone and make it sound like theirs and theirs alone.”

The donation was announced on July 17, in connection with the "DC Loves Dilla" tribute concert at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC. The annual event raises money and awareness for Lupus.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the 19th museum at the Smithsonian Institution. Established by Congress in 2003, it is currently under construction on the National Mall on five acres of land adjacent to the Washington Monument.

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