Before running for president and venturing into the fashion industry, there was a time when Kanye West was just a hungry artist eager to master his musical career.

The Roots’ Black Thought recently chopped it up with Stereogum following the release of his new album Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able on Friday (October 16). In the interview, he talked about the comparisons between Kanye and the late J Dilla.

“I saw him evolve from someone who just made beats — and I don’t say ‘just made beats’ to take anything away from his production — but I saw him evolve from someone who was a producer of tracks to someone who was also an MC,” he said. “I saw him follow in the footsteps of who I feel, to this day, was the greatest rapper/producer, J Dilla. J Dilla, he could sing and rap and play instruments just as well as he could program beats. I watched Kanye in real time evolve, following almost that same blueprint.”

The Philly MC reminisced on old studio sessions with Ye and revealed he was impressed by not only his material but also his work ethic in the studio.

“Kanye was very much the kid who would hang out in the studio,” he said. “I would always tell people I would arrive at the studio for a session — and I’m never late, so I would always be on time or early — and I would get there and Kanye would already be there in my session. I’d be like, ‘What are you doing here?’

“He was just hungry. He was about the business of showing people his potential as an artist and what he had already in the clip. There were songs on Kanye’s first album that I heard years before they came out, and I said, ‘This is a timeless classic.’ This is a song where, no matter when you put it out, it’s going to hit.”

The comments would likely mean a lot to Kanye, who considers Dilla one of his key influences. In an interview with Hypebeast in 2013, Ye reflected on meeting the legendary Detroit producer and what it was like to be around him.

“I met J Dilla at Common’s crib just down the street here in LA,” he said. “They were staying together, and I just remember looking at that MPC. And those drums came out of that MPC, arguably the best drums in Hip Hop history. I just remember vibing with him and having so much respect, and just wanting to work with him more.”

He continued, “Me and Common would go play basketball and hang and all that. But me and Dilla just focused on tracks. He had the organic feel but still the sonics were breakthrough, and he could give you a warm sound that still cut through speakers. It’s like he was making Quincy Jones production sessions inside his MPC.”

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