Brooklyn native Nomi Ruiz was unfamiliar with J Dilla‘s work until his untimely death in 2006. Once she dove into his expansive catalog, she immediately gravitated towards his production skills.

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The result is the Borough Gypsy 2: Nomi x Dilla mixtape, which features the woman of transgendered origins singing over several of Dilla’s beats. The first single, “Bullet Proof,” comes with an accompanying video (directed by Gabriel Magdaleno)and introduces Ruiz to the world.

Ruiz was the front woman in the original Hercules and Love Affair lineup and still performs in the Nu-disco band, Jessica 6. She’s also been a muse for fashion designer Thierry Mugler while continuing to be an outspoken advocate for transgendered rights. Her latest endeavor, however, is one of her most personal to date.


“It’s not only a tribute to the late great composer James Dewitt Yancey, but also a thank you note to someone who has saved me and so many others with his work, bringing even more meaning to the infamous shirt with its unmistakable message—J Dilla changed my life.” 

Needless to say, Dilla’s work has been a huge inspiration on her and the mixtape serves as a proper homage. Her knowledge of Hip Hop culture runs deep and has changed the way she looks at music.

“I could only relate hearing ‘Donuts’ for the first time to the moment I discovered El-P’s ‘Fantastic Damage,'” she explains. “The two albums don’t relate production wise, but I compare them by how they impacted my thoughts on music and hip-hop, art and jazz.  It reinstated my belief that music could, at times, be something channeled through chosen creators who had no choice but to make music because it possessed them.”

The Borough Gypsy 2: Nomi x Dilla mixtape drops in June.