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ASU partners in high school music grant program inspired by J Dilla

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PHOENIX – An Arizona State University professor has teamed up with some musical heavyweights on a grant program honoring the legacy of influential hip-hop figure J Dilla.

The high school initiative, which was unveiled Monday, was co-designed by Evan Tobias, an associate professor at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Music, and Pharrell Williams’ i am OTHER creative collective.

The J Dilla Music Tech Grant is a partnership of the ASU’s Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education (CITME), MTV and the Save the Music nonprofit organization.

The grant will focus on electronic music production and will assist students who produce and create through various computer programs, mirroring the current state of the music industry.

According to the CITME website, the grant offers “equipment, instruments, resources and professional development to facilitate contemporary music programs” to “select schools and highly qualified music educators.”

J Dilla was born James Yancey and died in 2006 at age 32 after battling a rare blood disease and lupus. He was a revered producer who worked with A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Erykah Badu, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and more.

“Dilla is the only hip-hop producer that literally changed the way musicians play music. You can always hear musicians trying to emulate him,” said Robert Glasper, the Grammy-winning musician and Save the Music ambassador, in a statement to The Associated Press.

The multi-year grant program will benefit seven public high schools in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami and Newark, New Jersey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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