THOUGHTS ON EARWORM S1 E7: ‘How J Dilla humanized his MPC3000’

What’s new in the world of Hip-Hop?

“Some songs don’t just stick in your head, they change the music landscape forever”.

Emmy-nominated producer Estelle Caswell in Vox Pop’s original new series Earworm, reflects on points in time that have dramatically altered the way we perceive music over the course of many years. Caswell looks extensively at the narrative behind the scenes, the ins and outs of music production and the different components which have cemented some of the greatest musical tracks in history. Caswell provides a universal explanation of some pressing and generational questions concerning the music industry. She brings us up to speed using technical jargon to create a powerful, comedic, informative and modern collection of episodes. I particularly enjoyed episode four titled How the triplet flow took over rap which picks apart trends and the rap flow know as the ‘the triplet’, which many of today’s most sought after rappers have now adopted. As well as our admiration for catchy lines and captivating hooks. In doing so, Caswell cleverly provides a much-needed commentary on the current state of rap today.

As an avid Jay Dee fan you can imagine the look on my face when I saw the title of episode seven – How J Dilla humanized his MPC3000. This mini-documentary (with the help of Raydar Ellis) looks into the mind of one of music’s biggest pioneers and someone who has shaped my perception of music forever. The video which was released on Wednesday 6th December, provides a universal commentary for those who are unaware of what a MPC3000 is. Helping those who may not have heard of J Dilla, to understand just how he put together some of the most esteemed ‘beats in Hip-Hop history’. Caswell’s insight provides us with a picture of an age where music was made a organically. An age where the MPC machine put the producer “in the driver’s seat” allowing them to play with various ‘sonic textures’ and really feel the music they create. Many have argued that due to technological advances in the way music is made, this raw aspect of production unfortunately doesn’t have much of a place anymore in today’s global music scene. Caswell not only highlights how Dilla humanized the MPC, but also how it was used as a tool by some of the greats including Q-Tip, Pete Rock and Dr. Dre. What Caswell beautiful demonstrates is just why J Dilla is and will always be one of the greatest producers – EVER.


His ability to use the MPC to its full potential produced a wide variety of sounds that truly placed him ahead of his time. From his drum style, to his aura and so on, Caswell leaves nothing out. It was almost like watching a tutorial and nope, I did not get lost along the way nor did I fall asleep. It was great to see how Dilla created some of his signature sounds.

Watching Caswell’s mini-documentary made me fall in love with Dilla’s music all over again and writing this only reignited the flame even more. Earworm takes us on an exciting journey through the progression of music in time. What a way to end 2017. I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.