Alum Dan Charnas Discusses Detroit Hip-Hop Genius J Dilla, the subject of his NYT Best Selling Biography


Please join us for a very special and musical afternoon with award-winning music and business journalist and Columbia Journalism School graduate Dan Charnas on Sunday, April 23, at the Huntington Woods Library.

Charnas (JRN '07) will discuss, entertain, and enlighten us with a talk about his new book Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm, a New York Times best seller.  

Equal parts biography, musicology, and cultural history, Dilla Time chronicles the life and legacy of James DeWitt Yancey, aka J Dilla, a musical genius from Detroit, who transformed the sound of popular music for the 21st  century by pioneering a new musical time-feel, an accomplishment on par with the achievements of Louis Armstrong and James Brown. Dilla, with only his drum machine, transformed the way traditional musicians play.

We’ll learn about what made him one of the most influential producers of our era, and about his collaborations with artists such as The Roots, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Common, D’Angelo, and Erykah Badu. Since his death in 2006 from a rare blood disease at the age of 32, Dilla has been celebrated with annual “Dilla Day” festivals across the globe. His drum machine is on exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Charnas spent four years researching and reporting Dilla Time, which grew out of a course he developed on the hip-hop artist in 2017 at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, where Charnas is a professor.

The book’s roots go back to Charnas’s time in the record business, when he traveled to Detroit in 1999 to work with the producer then known as Jay Dee. The book is also part love letter to the city for Charnas, who lives in New York City but got to know and appreciate Detroit through his wife, poet and essayist Wendy S. Walters, who grew up in Troy.

Although Charnas was already a published author, Dilla Time is his first New York Times best seller. The book recently garnered him the 2023 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography and was honored by the Library of Michigan as a 2023 Michigan Notable Book early this year.

We hope you can join us for this special event. You must RSVP in advance as we cannot accept payment at the door. Cost is $10 per person. We’ll serve light refreshments. Doors open at 1:15 p.m. for a bit of time to mingle and get situated. The program starts at 1:30 p.m. Charnas will talk and take questions until about 2:30 p.m.

Afterwards we can mingle, and if you bring a copy of his book, he’ll be happy to sign it. (You can purchase a copy ahead of time at a local bookseller or online with links from his website at We need to be out of the library by 3:00 p.m.

WHEN: Sun. April 23, 2023, 1:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: The Woods Gallery (lower level of the Huntington Woods Library) 26415 Scotia, Huntington Woods, MI 48070.

COST: $10 per person paid online in advance.


April 23, 2023 at 1:15pm - 3pm

Woods Gallery/Huntington Woods Library

26415 Scotia
(west of Woodward Ave and south of 11 Mile Rd)
Huntington Woods, MI 48070
United States

Will you come?

$10.00 Individual Please select the number of tickets you would like to purchase