LATEST: Urban stars AHMIR '?UESTLOVE' THOMPSON, PROOF, T3 and RJ RICE have paid tribute to late hip-hop producer J DILLA, who died on Friday (10FEB06) from the immune disease lupus.

J Dilla, who was known as JAY DEE, as well as his birth name JAMES YANCEY, collapsed in his Los Angeles home on Friday, three years after being diagnosed with the condition. He was only 32.

The Roots drummer Thompson, who produced for Yancey in his group SLUM VILLAGE, tells, "I am devastated at the world's loss of a musical genius of CHARLIE PARKER proportions.

"Too often we bestow the 'greatest' title upon those who have the attention of the press and the charts and radio. But if you were to secretly ask the most praised hip-hop producers, if given a top three, who they fear the most, Dilla's name would chart on everyone's list, hands down.

"I am fortunate to have known this man. He inspires me to perfect my craft in every way. Dilla was and will always be my hero."

D12 rapper Proof laments, "Me and Jay Dee were very, very, very, very good friends. He produced my first demo.

"As a producer, he is one of the most influential producers ever, even up to Kanye West or Just Blaze. Jay Dee had a signature sound that a lot of people were influenced by. People will never understand his genius. It's a shame that he didn't get the light of a Dr Dre or Timbaland or Neptunes, but he took more of a jazz-musician approach to the whole game. He was truly a mastermind."

His Slum Village bandmate T3 is devastated and wrote on his MySpace webpage on Friday, saying, "I'm f**ked up, my n**ga just passed away."

Meanwhile, Rice, founder of Slum Village's record label Barak Records, says, "He was a trendsetter, the soul sound (in hip-hop) is really Jay Dee. I don't know if he'll ever get credit for it or not, most people just copied him."