Lynne d Johnson



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02.14.06 09:26 PM

jay dee and the reality of lupus

When the first Detroit Free Press reported that producer Jay Dee/J Dilla (James Yancey)had died on Feb. 10, it was breaking news. It was also shocking and somewhat mysterious as all that was being reported at that time was, "died Friday morning of kidney failure at his home in Los Angeles, officials at his record label said Friday evening." He had just turned 32.

The next day, the Detroit News reported, "died Friday at his home in Los Angeles. No cause of death has been released, but Dee -- real name James Yancey -- had battled kidney problems in recent years."

Not that I specualted, as we often do in hip-hop, that either drugs or alcohol were the culprit, but I'm sure it was on the tip of some of our minds as no real cause had immediately been reported.

After listening to much Slum Village and Jay Dee in memoriam over the weekend, it wasn't until Feb. 13, when I received an emailed press release from the Lupus Foundation that I really found out the truth.

The letter read:

Good Afternoon,

I am writing in regards to the death of music producer J Dilla, who died Friday in L.A. His death was not a result of tragic violence, nor was it a self-inflicted demise---J Dilla's death was caused by the autoimmune disease lupus.

His untimely death at age 32 serves as an important opportunity to highlight the impact of lupus on the African American community. More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus, and African Americans are 2-3 times more likely to develop the disease than Caucasians. Lupus is a serious health threat. While skin rashes and joint pain are among its many symptoms, lupus can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and death. Sadly, J Dilla survived only 3 years past his diagnosis.

Lupus is widespread, yet awareness and accurate knowledge about it lag behind many other illnesses. I represent two sister organizations: the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation, the nation's leading lupus organization combating the disease through research, education and direct patient services, and the Lupus Research Institute, the leading sponsor of innovative lupus research. You may access our websites here:, We also have a dynamic chapter in Los Angeles, Lupus LA:

I hope that you take a moment to consider the need for greater awareness of lupus in your community. Should you be interested in developing a story on lupus or a follow-up story to the one below, please feel free to contact me at any time for more information on the disease, patient/physician interviews, research studies, and so on.

Best regards,
Liane Stegmaier
Public Relations
S.L.E. Lupus Foundation/Lupus Research Institute

Further info:

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