J Dilla’s Uncle Talks Opening Detroit Donut Shop

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Herman Hayes, the uncle of late hip-hop producer J Dilla, is set to honor his nephew by opening a donut shop sometime this fall. The aptly titled Dilla’s Delights will pay tribute to J Dilla, whose material played a huge role in the burgeoning jazz and soul-influenced realm of ‘90s hip-hop.

Dilla’s production was used on albums such as Busta Rhymes’ The Coming, De La Soul’s Stakes Is High and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement, but it was the release of his own instrumental compilation Donuts in 2006 that brought J Dilla’s reputation as an innovative producer to mainstream attention.

Uncle Herm plans to promote Dilla’s Delights as “downtown Detroit’s first handcrafted donut shop using 100 [percent] organic flour.” The shop will honor the late producer with menu items like Fantastic Fritters, McNasty Macaroons, as well as coffee, tea and juice. The shop will also spin Dilla’s music and some of the source materials from which he sampled his beats.

J Dilla, born James Dewitt Yancey, succumbed to lupus in 2006 at age 32, just three days following the release of Donuts. And Hayes said he’s the one responsible for Dilla’s love of donuts.

“I always wanted to have my own donut shop long before Dilla’s album,” he told Paste. “I used to bring [J Dilla’s father] Beverly Dewitt Yancey, my brother-in-law, donuts after he’d come home from recording with the Ivies. We’d talk for a while, then we’d look over and see a crumpled up, empty box of donuts laying across the room.” Beverly, who passed last year, had a musical career of his own as a Motown singer. Hayes added that J Dilla’s instrumental track “The Factory” is a dedication to Beverly.

Hayes is also the brother of Maureen Yancey, the mother of J Dilla who fans affectionately know as Ma Dukes. Ms. Yancey has been very active since her son’s passing, having established the J Dilla Foundation for those affected by lupus. She also monitors the affairs of the late producer’s estate, particularly in regards to his slew of posthumous releases.

When asked if she would be involved in the new donut shop, Herm made it clear that Ma Dukes is up to the task.

“Absolutely. She’s part of the reason I’m doing it,” Hayes said. “This is a family business, and she’s supporting me wholeheartedly.” And in spite of the financial ruin that has befallen the city of Detroit, Hayes’ outlook for the city is remarkably optimistic. “Take it from me, Detroit is alive and well—it’s getting better and better every day.”

“This is Dilla’s donut shop. I’m working for him, and I’m working for his daughter and his mother.”

Dilla’s Delights is expected to open in October or November in Detroit’s Harmonie Park, but for now Uncle Herm said it’s still very much a work in progress. For more information on Dilla’s Delights, check out their Facebook page here.

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