Nine years ago, a producer by the name of J Dilla was already a household name in hip-hop. He had been a member of one of Detroit's most respected groups, Slum Village, and since their breakup, worked with the best in the biz, from De La Soul to Erykah Badu to Busta Rhymes. He was also on his deathbed, suffering from a rare blood disease that ended his life three days after his 32nd birthday. What he achieved in those years was indeed legendary, but to borrow a phrase from Alec Guinness, once the illness struck him down, he became more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Since Dilla's untimely death, the music world has seen arguably more tributes, posthumous releases, fan art, and homages directed at him than any other rap producer of his era. I say "music world" because it's important to note that, while Dilla rarely stepped outside the realm of hip-hop/R&B in his time on Earth (here's one amazing outlier though), his influence has spread to genres far and wide. Read more than ten interviews with people working in any variant of electronic music these days, and Dilla's name is bound to pop up once. In other words, there's a reason why the sections of his Wikipedia article devoted to "posthumous music," "legacy" and "notable musical tributes" dwarf the rest of the page.

While you'll have no trouble mining Dilla's pre-2006 discography for nuggets that seem prescient and predictive of modern trends, his Sutter's Mill moment came just three days before his death. Dilla released Donuts, an instrumental solo album, on his birthday that year, having worked on many of the tracks from his hospital bed. Whereas most of his prior work had nestled in comfortably alongside other sample-heavy, jazz-revering hip-hop, this collection was different. It took anti-quantization to a whole new level, stitching together samples in a drunk and disorderly fashion to create a chaotic, volatile masterpiece that spanned 31 tracks and just over 45 minutes. Along with revered classics such as Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and The Avalanches' Since I Met You, Donuts is frequently cited as a revolutionary document in sampling culture, and there's no better evidence to that claim than the wake of music that continues to mimic and echo its techniques.

Outside of tracks that make use of previously-unreleased Dilla beats or ones that add vocals to his previously-instrumental cuts, songs that bear the unmistakable swing that Dilla is often credited with inventing are still a dime-a-dozen these days. It's almost a "perfect storm" scenario, as the decidedly analog Donuts was released just as music composition software like Garageband, FL Studio and Logic was gaining popularity. These programs all included a "quantize" of "snap-to-grid" function, making it easier for unpracticed finger-drummers to keep their beats in-time, but also contributing to an increasingly sanitized, robotic sound in electronically-generated music. Become an avid Dilla devotee, and rigid drum patterns begin to seem bland and impersonal. It's here, more than any of his sample curation or compositional chops, that Dilla made his mark.

With Kanye West calling Dilla a "drum god" in 2013, and years prior, admitting that he had copied the Detroiter's drums on some of his early tracks, we see the man who's often located as the modern nucleus of innovation in pop music tipping us off to how much Dilla is in his music's DNA. Elsewhere, Donuts' off-kilter funk was meshed with previously-existing strains of glitch hop, manifesting in the wonky tunes of Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing and numerous others signed to labels such as Brainfeeder, Ninja Tune and Ghostly. Electronically-inclined indie artists like Panda Bear and Bibio, dubsteppers like Joy Orbison and James Blake and leftfield hip-hop beatmakers like Lee Bannon and Roc Marciano are all additional examples of far-flung Dilla disciples.

In the Spotify/Rdio playlist below, you'll find music that was released after Dilla's death, but feels like it has his presence looming over it. We've left out songs explicitly dedicated to him (and ones featuring him) in favor of ones that seem to take his rhythmic creativity and sampling methods to new places. Dilla's music seems to be the Rosetta Stone of a certain corner of the music world, and hearing his ideas extrapolated by others offers us an alternate vision of a world in which he wasn't taken from us so soon. A restless innovator, a spiritual svengali, Dilla lives on in the minds and music of those whose lives he changed with his indelible beats.