In the six years since the passing of James “J Dilla” Yancey from complications due to a rare blood disease, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey has made certain that her son’s legacy and name continues to live on. After some bitter legal troubles over Dilla’s estate, Ma Dukes has emerged victorious due to some help from Hip-Hop heavy hitters who worked alongside her son. Ma Dukes offered more background in an exclusive interview with Complex.
Talking with Complex, Ma Dukes recalled a past VIBE interview where she spoke of fighting for her son’s legacy and the legal tussle that ensued after his death. It appears that things are back to normal after some help from some of her son’s past collaborators. “Because of that article, people began to open their eyes,” said Ma Dukes. “Nobody had an idea of what was going wrong and what could go wrong in the music industry. I got a lot of phone calls, I got people looking into things, finding out about the people that I thought were behind me and looking out for me were not. “
West Coast rapper Bishop Lamont and Busta Rhymes helped Ma Dukes through the stickier business of the estate while she tried to deal with the reality of losing her son. An attorney, Arty Erk, was the main barrier between Ma Dukes and her son’s estate and she was frank in the issues that came about because of the rift. “I didn’t start feeling that way until after Dilla passed and my household was upside down and I couldn’t get help,” Ma Dukes said regarding Erk. “So then I began to see a side of a person that I wasn’t used to dealing with.”
With Stone Throw’s Egon using his own money to get Ma Dukes an attorney, she was able to start the process in eliminating some of the debt Dilla owed on past due taxes and other miscellany. Ma Dukes has also created a new label Ruff Draft Records and will be releasing a collaborative project Rebirth on Memorial Day Weekend featuring the music of Dilla and other Detroit artists such as Danny Brown, Guilty Simpson and vocalist Monica Blaire.
“I love it. That has kept me from falling apart. I get so much love from these individuals,” said Ma Dukes of the upcoming project and the work she’s been able to undertake as head of the J Dilla Foundation.