James Dewitt Yancey (1974-2006), was known in the hip-hop community as Jay Dee or J Dilla. Born in Detroit he lived his first few years in this building where Dilla’s Delights is now located. His uncle Herman Hayes has been a chef and baker for his entire life but Donuts were his specialty.
Herman said, “When I used to visit my little nephew James, the first thing he’d look for was that box of donuts in my hand. Little did I know that many years later, James would become J. Dilla, a legendary hip-hop producer and those donuts would not only inspire the name of his most acclaimed album, but become a symbol of the man himself.”
Rolling Stone Wrote: “Even though they’re closed, he lets the fan in to buy a Dilla’s Delights T-shirt — there are three different kinds hanging on the wall for purchase. Their slogan reads, “Because beats and donuts are made best before sunrise.”
Every few minutes, there’s another knock on the door, but eventually there’s nothing left to sell at the 600-square-foot space, which sits on the corner of John R. and Centre St. in the Ashley building, formerly the Milner Hotel.”
As a youth he DJed in Harmonie Park, later moving to the Conant Gardens neighborhood where he worked in his basement studio and he became, “a teenage multi-instrumentalist, a consummate student of sound, a voracious collector of records, and an expert programmer of drum machines”. He grew to become one of the most influential hip-hop producers of our time. His work leading him to collaborate with artists such as The Roots, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Common, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu and many, many more. Dilla’s sonic mastery and rhythmic gift is now felt throughout the music world from pop to jazz. His place in music history was solidified by a grant of his equipment to be displayed in an exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Dilla has been celebrated with annual “Dilla Day” festivals across the globe since his death in 2006. He has a street in France named after himself and his work continues to live on and is renowned by journalists from NPR to The New York Times.