In February of 2006, just three days before a rare blood disease would claim his life, the legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla released his second studio album, Donuts, on Stones Throw Records. Featuring 31 tracks of frenetic, loop-laden instrumentals, the LP is regarded as the Detroit artist’s magnum opus, with cuts like “Glazed” and “Last Donut of the Night” standing as masterpieces of crate-digger soul sampling.
It’s safe to say that Dilla didn’t just like doughnuts; he loved them. And now, roughly a decade after his passing, the producer’s uncle will honor the memory of his nephew with Dilla’s Delights—a new brick-and-mortar coffee and doughnut shop on John R Street in Detroit’s Harmonie Park.
The store officially opened for business Tuesday morning at 5am, but by 11 the shop had already run out of doughnuts. Though Dilla’s Delights has been supplying other local eateries with pastries for years now, the storefront remains too cramped to have its own kitchen and receives fresh deliveries daily.
In many ways, doughnuts were in Dilla’s DNA. Hayes, who goes by the nickname “Uncle Herm,” once worked as a baker at a local doughnut chain and would bring Dilla treats as a child. According to Eater, the producer’s mother ran a restaurant in the Milner Hotel—the same building where Dilla’s Delights is now located. In 2006, she told The Times that she bought her son two dozen doughnuts just a week before the producer’s death.
“It’s all about Dilla; it’s not about Uncle Herm,” Hayes said in a video in 2015. “I feel he’s playing chess with a lot of us. He’s up there moving the parts and the people around in the places that he wants them to be.”
Over the course of his career, Dilla worked with renowned artists like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Common. Dilla’s Delights comes outfitted with a turntable, and the shop’s soundtrack will be heavily influenced by the eclectic albums Dilla sampled in his music.
“It’s really difficult for me to do a bad doughnut because of Dilla,” Hayes said last year. Dilla’s Delights features 15 doughnut flavors, and a line of vegan options could be coming soon as well. “I have his name on my product. It’s gotta be like the beats. You’ve gotta put some thought into it; gotta put some heart and love into it.”
[via Detroit Free Press]