Jon Bellion on J. Dilla’s Influence and Being a ‘Very Sensitive Cat’

He also loves Timbaland, the Neptunes… and Band of Horses.

By Brian Ives 

Music is supposed to be timeless, which is why generations of fans love artists like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Tupac, even though they may not have been born when those artists were in their prime.

And that’s the case with singer/songwriter/producer Jon Bellion: he’s long cited legendary hip-hop producer J. Dilla as one of his prime influences, even though Dilla passed away in 2006, when Bellion was just 16. But he tells Radio.com that a lot of what influences him predates his own birth: “I wasn’t born in the ’80s; I have a song called ”80s films’ on my record. I never said on my record that I was born in the ’80s. I feel like that’s a corny purist thing: like, ‘Whoa, you can’t reference things that you weren’t alive for!’ I think they made their music so that it would impact future generations. Maybe I’m crazy!”

And clearly, he’s paid a lot of attention to J. Dilla’s production techniques, as well as those of some of his peers: “What drew me to him, it was the kick [drum]/snare [drum] conversation. Like, the beats’ dB level were not the loudest thing that you heard, but they still got your neck moving, they still got your body moving. And they’re these simple, well-chopped MPC samples, but with this gritty kick and this gritty snare. Even if you don’t rap, when you hear a Dilla beat, you want to. You wish you could. [I thought], ‘Ooh, I want to make my drums like that!’ So, when you listen to ‘All Time Low’ and the way the drums are shuffling and moving, that’s really from him, and the Chad Hugos, the Pharrells and the Timbalands.”

He notes that his influences also include indie rock: “In college, I really got into the MPC [sampler], and swinging drums. I grew up on Timbaland and Pharrell. I was like, ‘I want to make music like that!’ So when you listen to the integral hip-hop drums on the record, ‘All Time Low’… the top line is very Ben Gibbard and Band of Horses, I’m a very sensitive cat!

His musical diversity, he says, is a product of growing up during a very specific time: “I was raised in an era where TRL was playing all of these different sorts of music, and then the internet swooped in. And you can’t fake the funk today. Kids just like what they like, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and what you should be liking due to your demographic, or what you look like: it just doesn’t matter.”

“But that marriage of those two things breeds a fresh sound,” he continues. “‘All Time Low’ was made two years ago, but sounds newer than anything that’s on the radio right now.”

Bellion’s album, The Human Conditionwhich includes “All Time Low” and “’80s Films,” is out now.

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