One of my best friends has the picture above framed. It hangs in his office. We’re both huge fans of J Dilla, though I’m sure the picture has different meanings for the two of us. J Dilla passed away in 2006. The picture above was taken in 2005. At the time, J Dilla was in and out of the hospital, suffering from a rare blood disease that would ultimately take his life. To me, what we see in this picture is a man who lived his art.
I’ve been reading a great book called ‘The War on Art’ by Steven Pressfield. The ‘War on Art’ is written for the creative soul, and tries to address that demon that torments many creative souls. Pressfield calls this demon “resistance”, I call it simply “bullshitting”. You may refer to it as “procrastination”, or some other word that describes a condition where you’re just not putting in the work to achieve your creative visions. For Pressfield, “resistance” is anything that distracts, prevents or encourages the creative soul to not pick up that paint brush, to not write that book, or not write/produce that song.
For the me, the picture above is that of an artist who had completely slayed Pressfield’s demon. Even the shadow of death couldn’t mount enough resistance to prevent J Dilla from working on his craft – from creating art. As a matter of fact, ‘Donuts’, which was released 3 days after J Dilla passed away, was almost entirely recorded in the hospital (29 of the 31 tracks). It’s a great album, even more so knowing what J Dilla was facing – mortality. It’s almost like at some point the art was all that mattered, and no distraction or form of “resistance” was strong enough to silence his muse. I admire that more than words can express…