So you’re just hoping by the end of this summer…
Oh, I know before that time. But I had hoped that before the year went out… But definitely working. The new estate has been so, so good.
Are you the lead executor?
Yes. I’m the only one left. Right now, for all intents and purposes, we have our attorney who’s acting executor during the process of the clearing out.
How are Dilla’s daughters doing?
They’re great! Computer nuts. They’re really tech savvy. Those little girls are really smart and I’m really happy about that.
But they’re not receiving money from the estate yet?
No, they receive Social Security. I was glad they started receiving that right away.
Is the plan—or maybe at least your hope—that some time later this year they’ll start to receive money from the estate?
The one question that people always ask me is if you’ve cried yet. Last time we talked, you said you haven’t shed one tear since Dilla died.
You haven’t shed a tear yet?
No. I’m so excited about his life. It’s such a celebration. How can you cry when you live to brighten the world with what he gave? I think his gift was something to brighten the world. So I’m just so super excited.
Even through all those frustrating moments with the estate?
[I haven't shed a tear yet.] I’m so excited about his life. It’s such a celebration. How can you cry when you live to brighten the world with what he gave? I think his gift was something to brighten the world. So I’m just so super excited.
Even with the frustrating moments. You know what? That’s what keeps me going. This Rebirth project has invigorated me every day. I don’t care what comes. I don’t care what lies ahead—and it’s been some rough, dark clouds hanging over my life.
Where do you pull your strength from? How is it that you’ve been able to be so strong? Because it’s been a pretty tumultuous last six years...
It has. But I trust in God and I know that he makes all the difference in my life. And then I have to count my blessings. I think that’s it. My faith is no stronger than anybody else. Sometimes we all will slip and find ourselves not appreciating things. But I have been truly blessed.
You know, my kids [John 'Illa J' Yancey, Martha, and Earl], they stand beside me and since Dilla died, I have not given the 100 percent that I know that I could give. If I just stopped for a minute and said, “Oh, I haven’t done this for them lately.” But they are so patient and they love me still and they’re there for me and help me.
And now you’re caring for his father? He’s not doing well?
It’s been some rough, dark clouds hanging over my life, especially since Mr. Yancey has been ill. Because you know he had three strokes and a heart attack.
And this is all inside of the last year?
Yes. Three bouts of pneumonia. He had a trach put in and a feeding tube, and he’s had three times down with the kidneys. But he’s still kicking.
Is he lucid?
Very seldom. He’ll see me and he’ll say, “It’s you again, lady.” Sometimes he knows me, but sometimes it’s just like that face that he sees and he’s looking at me and I guess he’s like, “What now?”
And I’m talking to him and I’m scratching his hair—he loves having his hair scratched—and talking to him and everything and kissing him on his forehead and his face. And he’ll be like, “Oh God,” cause he always hated mushy stuff.
You’re kind of like this hip-hop mama now.
I love it. That has kept me from falling apart. I get so much love from these individuals. And the Rebirth project—Oh my God. Some of the guys I’ve met for the first time for this project, and I think with it being a little different because you’re not just putting your arms around hip-hop, but people that love art and the art of music and canvas and dance.
They all shower me with love, so I can’t fall apart, because I have to do what I can to make things better. We have artists [on this project] that would’ve sworn 10 years ago they wouldn’t speak to Dilla much less be caught in the same room and they’re doing these projects together, collabin’ on records together and making beautiful things together.
When will that come out?
It won’t be out until Memorial weekend. And that’s just in time, because we were trying to make sure and pace everything so that everything would be done—and it’s just been remarkable.
And will you be doing that with Stones Throw?
No, no we’re doing it on Ruff Draft records, it’s our own label. I started the label and set everything in motion last year.
Can you name off a couple of artists that will be on that project?
Oh yes, Danny Brown—and that was a gift, because when we started, he was the first artist to come out and say, “Okay, I’m gonna do this. I’ll do this for you Ma Dukes because I’m showing my love.” Monica Blaire and we have the Almighty Dredknaughtz. And that’s been an inspiration for a lot of people. And we have Phat Kat, who is now Ronnie Euro—he changed his name.