A self-storage unit full of records, tapes and documents belonging to late famed hip-hop producer J Dilla ended up in the hands of Jeff Bubeck, owner of UHF Records in Royal Oaks, MI. Bubeck heavily advertises the fact that his store buys and sells used LPs and CDs, so the folks at a nearby Extra Space Storage facility knew to give him a call when the unit went up for auction. Rent had not been paid in six years.
Bubeck saw the name James Yancey on the mail in the unit, but didn’t recognize it until he Googled and “the first thing that popped up was the J Dilla Wikipedia page. I know who J Dilla is, so it was pretty shocking,” Bubeck said.
He tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with Dilla’s mother, Maureen Yancey, for two weeks. But once the Detroit News story hit, Yancey called the store back. Bubeck had also received an offer from Universal Records to buy the tapes, but felt they didn’t have a right to them.
“Dilla’s estate was basically drained because he was sick for so long, and his mom is still in the same old house in the city living paycheck to paycheck,” Bubeck explained. “And being a father, if it was my son’s property then I would want it back,” Bubeck said.
Yancey told Bubeck that Dilla’s basement had flooded when he used to live nearby. Since he was leaving to move to L.A., they decided to put the salvaged records and belongings in storage. The records were set up on shelves, like a library in the unit. Dilla reportedly used to call his mom from L.A. and ask her to pull this or that record on a particular shelf, and send it to him. According to Bubeck, Yancey lost track of the unit while in Los Angeles taking care of chronically ill Dilla until his death in 2006.
Of the estimated 7,000 records in the unit, Bubeck put about 100-200 up for sale in his store to recoup costs, while the bulk remain in storage. Bubeck is now paying rent on the unit. He and Yancey plan to process the rest of the records together and donate a portion to the J Dilla Foundation. Yancey only wanted the personal effects and tapes for herself, even though Bubeck offered her everything in the unit.
“I’ve been buying this [storage auction] stuff for a while, long before all the shows came along,” Bubeck said. “Anything can be in [the units], from a well-known producer’s record collection to garbage. It covers the spectrum.”