Written by Andrew Graham for Detroit News, published August 27, 2013.
Late Detroit hip-hop producer J Dilla was always into doughnuts, so much so that he named his final album Donuts before his death in 2006.
Now his name will adorn Dilla’s Delights, a new coffee and doughnut shop that will open in Harmonie Park this fall.
Dilla’s uncle Herman Hayes, 58, is setting up shop in an 800-square-foot space at 242 John R. St., on the ground floor of the Ashley (formerly the Milner Hotel) where Dilla lived briefly as a toddler. Hayes is a former baker at Avalon Bakery and plans to use all organic ingredients at Dilla’s Delights, which he’s looking to open in October or November.
Hayes used to bring Dilla doughnuts as a child, and says he’s one of the reasons Dilla got hooked on the treats. Now he sees making doughnuts in Dilla’s name as a way to honor and preserve his nephew’s memory.
The menu at Dilla’s Delights — which will be open Mondays through Saturdays and during select Detroit Lions home games — will include about 20 different doughnuts whose names will pay tribute to Dilla, the influential and multi-faceted producer who died from complications from Lupus at age 32.
The Conant Gardens Glaze is a nod to the neighborhood where Dilla was raised; Fantastic Fritters honor Fantastic, the album Dilla put out with Detroit hip-hop troupe Slum Village; McNasty Macaroons tip a hat to “McNasty Filth,” a track Dilla did with his side project Jaylib. Other items will honor the neighborhood and the former tenants of the store’s space, which is across from the Detroit Opera House and across Madison Street from Comerica Park.
Donuts, coffee, tea and juices will be on the menu, and Hayes says he plans to have vinyl spinning in the store, both the music of Dilla and the works he sampled in his productions.
Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, has headed up most of the projects involving her son since his death, and she is supporting her brother in this venture. She says she always remembers Dilla carrying a box of Dutch Girl Donuts, and he had a special affinity for glazed doughnuts.
“I want to honor my nephew in the right way, and this is a good way to do it,” Hayes says. “Not by putting out another album, but putting a sustainable business with his name on it that I plan on being in Detroit long after I’m gone. It’s just what I can give back to him for giving us that music.”