Peace my peoples...
I'm back with more treats from the One Leg Up movement! In honor of the latest One Leg Up release, Lord Digga "The High Plains Drifter" EP, I got a chance to speak with the Diggaman himself. This is definitely one of the longest interviews I've conducted. Digga has been a part of a lot of interesting and legendary things throughout his hip hop career. Take the time out to read this interview in full and I guarantee you won't be disappointed if you're a real head like me. Lots of interesting hip hop trivia type stuff discussed in here.
One Leg Up is still taking pre-orders for the limited 200 press EP, which will be shipped August 29th. Copies are moving fast, so the order slots are filling up quickly. Make sure you don't miss out on this vintage 90's vinyl EP, especially if you're in line for the Heavy Pieces series giveaway.
For more info on ordering a copy, please CLICK HERE. Get one while they're still here.
LORD DIGGA INTERVIEW
Conducted August 8th, 2008 by 4XL and One Leg Up Records
4XL: What got you into hip hop?
I got interested in it real young. Growing up in a different area.. in Miami.. in Opa Locka, you know rap wasn't the thing where I came from. So when my mother, who lived in New York, used to come to down and visit.. She used to bring records like, "Listen to this and this is what's goin' on in New York!" This is like late the 70's, early 80's, right when hip hop was brewing. The first record I remember hearing probably was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.. "The Message".. or Treacherous Three.. something like that. It was a mixture of different stuff.
4XL: So you're originally from Miami but moved to New York at a young age?
Yeah, I ended up in Brooklyn.. in Flatbush.. in 1985.
4XL: What prompted the move? Was it a family thing? Tell us how an Opa Locka boy ends up in Flatbush.
The Opa Locka boy was gettin' into a couple things he wasn't supposed to be doing! I basically outgrew my grandmother's blessings. She wasn't prepared for me hangin' out late at all times of the night and not coming home. But a lot of it was kinda ironically due to music because I wanted to hang out with my older cousins. They had the music over at their house. They had the mobile DJ set and shit. So I used to wanna go over there and I didn't come home a lot, but I was thinking since it's my aunt's house and that it's my cousins', I didn't feel I needed to come home. Mind you I'm really young at this time. My grandmother used to get mad about that and you know as time went on, I got older and she thought that she couldn't handle me as much so I got shipped off to Flatbush.
4XL: You said your mother lived in Brooklyn, so did you ever visit New York much prior to the big move?
Not too frequently, but I did make attempts to stay in New York at certain points. I was going to school up there, but it was like elementary school for like half a year maybe. I was occasionally bouncin' back and forth and then eventually I just stayed down in Florida because I liked it better down there. You know, I'm comin up here to New York and I'm seein' buildings I can't even feel, I'm like "Yo, fuck this shit!" I was used to bein' in the sunshine, seein' beaches.. Lake Okeechobee (laughs).. So I went back and forth between elementary up through junior high and then stayed put for awhile in Miami until I got shipped off like I said.
4XL: How long did it take you to adapt to the Brooklyn way of life?
It took awhile. It took like my 2nd year in high school after being on the football team up here and shit. It took like those 2 years to try to, you know, snap out of bein' in Florida mode and shit.. and feel at home in Flatbush.
4XL: How old were you when you first started actually writing rhymes?
Probably like 15.
4XL: Did you rhyme in high school or have a rap group?
No, I was only doing the football thing and I was, I guess you could say I was a breaker. I don't really like to use the term breaker, cause I didn't have any floor exercises or floor shit.. I guess I was more of a popper. I was more into that than rapping at the time. I was writing but at the same time, I was still into the dance aspect of just the whole hip hop culture. That was my connection moreso than the rappin' shit because I had to get into learning how to make tracks. At that time, I wasn't making any tracks. You gotta understand, I had to learn.. just trying to write a song to somebody's beat that's already someone's song.. I didn't have no instrumentals or no shit like that. So I didn't know nothin' about all that. That was the frustrating part like "Yeah I like that beat but they're rhyming on it." I couldn't learn how to block out whoever was on that song so I could write something down. So I had to learn how to write without tracks. That's why writing was like on the backburner cause I was still dancin' and shit.
4XL: When did you decide to start taking rap seriously and actually keeping a notebook with rhymes?
Probably around the time I got up with Ace. Like right around that time. I was still in high school at Sheepshead Bay High. He had graduated already. He was about 4 years ahead of me.
4XL: Did Masta Ace already have his debut album "Take A Look Around" on Cold Chillin' out around the time you started getting up with him?
No, really just "The Symphony" was poppin'. The Marley Marl "In Control" thing had happened, but the album hadn't come out yet. So around the time "The Symphony" was poppin' off was when I started hangin' around with Ace and them.
4XL: Were you already pursuing to write rhymes before you got up with Ace and crew?
I was writing rhymes, but now I could concentrate on really writing stuff. I was jottin' down little shit but you know I didn't have any tracks or nothing that I could really sit there and you know, listen to a beat and just write some shit. So when I got around Craig G and Ace and them it became different. Now, you know, there was a DJ around who cuts records, so now I could sit there and listen to this nigga Steady Pace cut records in Ace's little room and now I could write. Like "Yo, make a tape for me cuttin' up 'Impeach the President' or whatever.." Then boom! I got some shit.. I could go to the crib now and write. So that's how it started.
4XL: So how exactly did the connection start? How did you end up in the mix with Masta Ace and the whole Juice Crew family?
That right there happened really on the connection from the football team. Ace was on the football team at one point when he was in high school. Then, you know, he used to come back from college and visit the school and get to know the younger players and know me or whatever, and from that time we was on some hangin' out shit. One of his peoples that also went to the school had brothers that were almost in the same age group as me so they were in school still and they were comin' back to watch us play, so that's how the connection got started. Eventually I was goin' to a couple shows that he had and then it went from that to hangin' around Kane, Craig G, all of them.. It was crazy. You know that's the shit as a kid you dream about. Like cause you look at Video Music Box and all the shit that was poppin' and you be like "Damn, son!" and you see somebody downtown like "That's this dude! Yo, son I seen the nigga T.J. Swan.." You know, little shit like that you dream about as a fan. Not to say that I'm a groupie, but I'm a rap fan first before I was even an artist. I went through every phase of hip hop, that's the way I feel. Other than graffiti and that aspect or whatever, the stages that I took to get to this point I feel I paid all of those dues. From being a fan, like standin' next to these dudes.. "Symphony" part 1 video shoot.. "Symphony" video 2.. It's just shit you dream about.
4XL: That's fresh. I'm sure being around all of that during that time really inspired you to create stuff once you realized the opportunities you had in front of you.
Yeah, like I used to be up at Cold Chillin' like it was nothin', yo. You know, I owe that opportunity and that time period in frame to Ace for taking me along. He didn't have to, which was cool. Those times was cool.
4XL: How did you come up with the name Lord Digga?
That was the first name I derived at after sitting down and thinking of so many different things. But at those times, the Lord in my name probably had me being confused as some sort of five percenter or God MC or something like that. But it was really supposed to be an acronym. Nobody never really asked me so it was never spelled out with all the periods. Lord really stands for: Lyricist Obsessed with Rhyming Daily, and the Digga, later was broken down to: Distant Illustrations Going Global Afterlife. The Digga part of my name came up after I had this record, it was a movie soundtrack.. "Across 110th Street" I think where one of the cop's names was Gravedigger.. and I saw that on the back of the album cover, so I omitted the Grave part and came in with the acronym.
4XL: Explain how you officially ended up as part of Masta Ace Incorporated, with the whole INC thing. How did that concept come about?
As time progressed, I started to get more into my craft and tryin' to do certain things. I used to have a job working at ASCAP at the time and I started to meet up with people and I ran into Witchdoc a/k/a Norm, who later became my partner in Bluez Brothers. He knew certain people.. Mister Cee and stuff like that.. To make a long story short, I went through that process or whatever, and in turn, Ace started hearing a couple things that I was doin' on some studio shit and random songs I was just rhymin' on. He was like "Yo, you've progressed!".. You know, from just writing shit to never recording these things before and now to doin shit like this. It was something cool, something legitimate.. He felt like it was something. So he already had in mind to do something after the transition period between him leaving Cold Chillin' and not having a deal. He had come up with the whole Masta Ace Incorporated concept. The INC... Like remember I told you there was a classmate of his that had two younger brothers that was in school with me as well? Well, they were producing and they were doin' things on their own and he ended up using one of their records that he got on and used the shit for one of the singles from Cold Chillin'.. Matter fact, it was the "Go Where I Send Thee" joint. So he took that element.. those dudes.. plus me and this other chick at the time that they was fuckin' with first, which was Paula Perry and decided to come with this idea of The INC. It wasn't like something that we signed into, contract-wise as group.. Like "Oh yeah, this person gets this percentage" or it wasn't on paper as The INC. We just had production deals with Ace's company, so in theory it was like "Yeah, we The INC.."
4XL: So who all was in the original INC crew?
Ace, Eyceurokk, Paula Perry and myself.
4XL: Many fans looked at you as the co-pilot of The INC. How did you end up in that position?
My hunger and determination to get recognized as a legimate artist and producer was a little more than everyone else's. They just had agendas at the time that they didn't want to go forth being the head or whatever, you know, to do whatever it takes.. not necessarily to be a star but, you know, to be recognized as someone that's tryin' to give the fans good music. That's all I was aiming for, that was my goal. It really wasn't about the money at all at that time. It was just like, "Yo I want to be known for doing THIS." For doing some shit where I was recognized.. I'm already a fan, so I can't love the music anymore than I love it, but then being a part of it and contributing and making the shit grow and move onto another stage because I created some shit where, "Damn, that shit is crazy!" and you gonna be like, "Yo, what's the next stage after this? After he did that? What can he do now?" That's all I really wanted to do.. Keep my measure for a higher threshold.4XL: What happened with the Cold Chillin' situation and how come Ace didn't continue to do The INC thing over there?
I think he felt like he wasn't getting the attention that he needed at Cold Chillin' cause of Kane and G. Rap. So I think Delicious Vinyl bought out the rest of the contract and took him over there.
4XL: Where did you first begin recording and around what time period was this?
It was with my other producer, my 2nd DJ.. Ezo, who was affiliated with Daddy Rich from 3rd Bass and the Supermen with Clark Kent and shit. So I basically used to go to his crib and he had the equipment and produced the tracks there. I recorded actually in Bed-Stuy by his other homeboy who had a studio with a little 8 track. This was around '90 or '91..
4XL: Who were some of your original influences as an MC?
I was a real voice dude. I like good strong voices. The flows definitely gotta be there but the voice is number one with me. Without that, I don't even wanna hear you.. It's like fuck you.. I don't care.. Your flow could be fuckin' platinum but your voice gotta really capture me, so it was a combination of about like 6 dudes. I'd say KRS-One, Just Ice, LL Cool J, Chuck D, Freddie Foxx.. The last guy was G. Rap.. G. Rap because of just the way he puttin' together like, his wittyness at that time was like ahead of niggas' shit. You know, you had Rakim, you had certain niggas.. but his wittyness, the way he put shit together and his voice was crazy.. G. Rap is stupid! He's just one of my favorites. With all that being said, I tried to combine all those things into one. Like the nasty shit G. Rap be saying all the time and then how Just Ice used to rhyme, that nigga was like to me, the first gangster of rap, east coast or west coast. I didn't even know of any other nigga that was on that type of shit. So combine all those things together and come up with me!
4XL: Flatbush was home to a lot of hip hop legends. What was it like growing up in area so rich with hip hop talent?
That was like another inside inspiration to know that the people that were in the vicinity of where I lived, were people I considered stars in my eyes. Because like I said, me being a fan of hip hop, to be in the same area where they were at that time, was unreal for me. You know, Chubb Rock lived down the block.. you know, this guy Howie Tee was not too far from there up the block on Schenectady.. you know, Special Ed was over there on Church.. It was just like a triangle over there. It was crazy.
4XL: Then in the 90's it exploded even more with cats like Cella Dwellas, Bush Babees...
Yup.. Bushwackas too.. But really Flatbush jumped off before that, because of UTFO.. Real Roxanne was from there too. So Flatbush was like.. I'm not gonna say how Mt. Vernon was with Heavy D and Pete Rock and them, but it's kinda similar. It just shows you it's not all centered around the Bronx and Queens.
4XL: What got you started into making beats and doing full-on production?
Well it started by chillin' with my partner, Witchdoc. After I met him at ASCAP, we got into talkin' about records and shit like that and I gave him some records they were throwing out at the office.. some 45's.. these files they were throwin' out, so I gave him a bunch of records, different types of shit. He told me he was doing production and I started out just by me just trackin' with him too. Once I started gettin' these tracks and these beats, I would start to write more and start to write real songs and shit like that. It got to the point where I would just go to his house and just take shit, like tag shit.. like "Yo what are you doing with this? Gimme that shit." So it got the point where I told him, "Yo, instead of you havin' to do shit, just show me how to start fuckin' around with shit so I can bring shit over and try to sample the shit that I want to do tracks with." It started like that, like on some hands on shit. I would just watch him and see what he was doin' and then I started on a keyboard which was the EPS-16 Plus.. and I just started learning how to sample. I started diggin', started lookin' for breaks, started lookin' for different shit.. Lookin' for shit that I know niggas had used with other records of that same artist.. It started like that and then next thing you know, I got all types of shit, just ready to go in.
4XL: When did you form Bluez Brothers officially and was your first production gig the "Slaughtahouse" album?
Yeah it was. We formed it in 1992. That's when it started. Actually the first drum machine I touched was the MPC 60 cause Ezo had one and then he went to the MPC 60-II, that was like a step up from that one and Daddy Rich had one. So we started fuckin' with that and then that's how it started.. I later went on to learn how to utilize the SP-1200 after the keyboard shit cause after we started doin' more shit, Norm eventually just bought one. So then I sharpened up my skills and learned how to fuck with that. Then I started with the S-950. Norm had the keyboard, so once we got the drum machine, he would do filters with the ASR-10 cause he switched the EPS to the ASR and then I would do the tracks over at Ezo's. Those tracks were S-950, MPC and SP-1200 combos. Then the tracks that I would do with Norm would be SP-1200 and ASR combos between filters and other sounds. I was just mixin' it up, learning how to do all that shit at once. Cause I thought at some point I became nice! So I just didn't wanna dabble with just any one thing.
4XL: So how long did the Bluez Brothers thing last?
Since 1992 until now, I mean it's still in existence. It's just that Norm has other obligations to do other things. I mean he's still making tracks but he's just not really into the get-back-into-doing-music thing and I'm still going. But I mean, we're still a team.
4XL: That's good to know. A lot of people thought that the Bluez Brothers thing had disbanded at some point since you never really saw that name in later production credits, only Lord Digga.
I think at the time it was just contact-wise, I guess we just wasn't in contact with each other and I just went ahead and did the projects. I didn't want to put something on the credits that wasn't true. If I don't even have contact with him at that time and put Bluez Brothers or whatever it is, and things are gettin done, and I can't get in contact with him or whatever.. that's not gonna do me any good! So it was just like the timing factor of it.. that was just things that had to be done at that time. It wasn't that we was really "broke up" or something as a team, I just did certain solo things and production gigs myself.
4XL: So what is Norm up to nowadays?
He's still Witchdoctor.. You know, I call him Norm Bates cause that's his gov.. that's his first name, but he's definitely Witchdoctor, you know. He's doin' a couple things here and there but he's just not ready to release any tracks yet.
4XL: You guys ended up producing a chunk of tracks on Notorious BIG's classic "Ready To Die" album. How did y'all end up landing that production gig?
I'm gonna say it was great hustle and a pretty good assist to make it all connect. It was mainly due to my hustlin' with our product up to The Source magazine and being recognized in an Unsigned Hype column with the first artist I ever produced for, which was Sir Essence Don.. and Matt Life, Matty C.. was the spearhead of Unsigned Hype. So I had a repoire with him and I just had an open door to be with The Source magazine which was another time in my life and in my travels in hip hop that I felt was significant. You know, that was a major, major, major hip hop source.. Literally.. Givin' fans a lot of information and great pictures and just a lot of crazy shit. You know, a good magazine for its time, until it got fucked up! But anyway, I'm up at The Source and chillin' with the editors and walkin' around with one of my good friends Kierna Mayo, that's my homegirl. I used to be up there with Matty and fuckin' around with them and you know, bringin' tapes.. just tracks all the time to Matt.. Just bringin' shit, all the time.. One of those days I left one of them shits with him and then he goes and plays it for Big. He played it for Big and Big picked it.
4XL: Ahh, so that's how the beats landed in Biggie's hands...
Yup. Big would say, "I want it!" and it wasn't even finished, like "I want that NOW!" (laughs) It was just crazy, man. Like at the time, I don't think any of us knew. Like me and Norm didn't know that it was gonna really be some crazy shit like it was. We knew the shit was ill and the dude had mad talent, but we never imagined it would be what it is today.
4XL: Speaking on Sir Essence Don, there's a record out there from 1992 on Afrocentric Records called "First Step" b/w "Live From New York". The producer credit is listed as "Lord D." Was that your very first production credit ever on wax?
That was the very first record that came out with my name on it, yup. Essence was a wild nigga, man. I thought he was really dope and had some potential, but he was just too street for his own good. A lot of rappers got on records and talked a whole bunch of mess but this guy was like actually living like that. He had so much potential but he kinda blacklisted himself out of the industry from a few incidents. At one point, he had gotten a deal with Freeze Records I think and had some kind of disagreement with them. Him and my man Q went up there on some wild shit, brought a gun and all that. He ended up actually robbin' one of the niggas from the label for his watch! (laughs) Like, straight robbed the dude downstairs outside the office and yapped the nigga's watch. It was crazy. He ended up going to jail for that. I think he did like 3 years off that charge and it fucked up a lot of shit for him in the industry.
4XL: Speaking of Unsigned Hype artists, when we met up to sort out the tracks on the "High Plains" EP, you told me a little something about helping Biggie get in the Unsigned Hype column originally. Tell us about that.
What happened was, Mister Cee had called me one night and was like "Yo, how do you go about getting in Unsigned Hype?" Cause I was like one of the first people he knew that was actually in Unsigned Hype. So he said to me, "Look I got this dude, he's ill. I want to get him in Unsigned Hype." I'm like, "Yo I know the person that's runnin that over there." Cause I chilled with him like everyday. So he's like, "Yo.. See what you can do." So I went back to Matt and said, "I got this nigga you need to listen to. Nigga's mad nice." I was like, "Yo he's my man." Mind you, I didn't know Big or know who he was at this point, but I was looking out for Mister Cee by dropping some shit on Matt knowing he would check it out right away and not think it's some kind of industry move. The game works like that sometimes, even back then. So Matt was like, "Aight yo, just give me the shit." Then Mister Cee came up there with the tape to meet us and that's how it all started.
4XL: Do you remember what the tape was like?
It was a demo basically of him doin' freestyle type shit, just spittin' verses, shit he had done down by 50's house.. the DJ 50.. 50 Grand.. He was just basically rhyming off breakbeats shit, like the shit that niggas was makin' records off of. One of the shits was like "Blind Alley", the whole break of the record like how it goes into the "Ain't No Half Steppin" shit, how Marley Marl chopped it.. but the whole shit all the way to the end, but the nigga would cut it back to the top. Biggie was rhymin' on that shit and that shit was just stupid! That was one of the more stupidest ones, because you know, I was so accustomed to "Ain't No Half Steppin" and then to hear the actual record where it came from with more bars, you know, more measures to the shit.. it's like, "Yo that shit sounds stupid!" He rhymed straight through all the way back to the cut and I was like, "Yo that shit is bananas!" So that was one of the better ones that I remember that was on there. That was crazy.
4XL: Tell us what it was like to work with Biggie.
Big was like.. he knew he was a star but he just didn't act like one. Big was like somebody I grew up with on my block but now we just doing music together, like we was the type of kids that did music all our life. And I think maybe it was only one other producer that was like that with him and that was Easy Mo Bee and he grew up in his neighborhood with him. So doin' joints with this dude was like work, but it wasn't work. You come to the studio, this mothafucka's ordering chicken wings and shit.. weed is there.. liquor is there.. couple bitches runnin' around.. Junior Mafia's in there.. It's like "Come on in, nigga, this my house!" and we in there smokin', drinkin', eatin' chicken and shit. This nigga ain't doin' no vocals and the music is playing! Niggas is in there just talkin', like it's a party, like we all fuckin' around. Next thing you know, lights is dark in the booth and you just hear that signature Big "Uhh... Uhh.. Yo turn the music up in the headphones, yo I'm ready to take one." Just like that and I'm like, "What the fuck? Are you serious?" (laughs) Niggas is high as hell smokin' the craziest dro ever, just in there chillin' and there'd be sessions and shit where niggas would come through and listen to records for samples and shit. So we'd bring records up there and we'd just listen, lookin' for shit to make tracks with. On some bugged shit though I think I got jacked for one of my ideas for the remix of my song, "One More Chance", which is ironic. Cause one day we was in the studio layin' shit, niggas was in there and we brought records and we was playin' shit and I played the DeBarge shit in the studio. Well, somebody was in there. No names, but somebody from somebody's production team was there and next thing I know.. "One More Chance Remix"! So somebody was told. Matter fact, it wasn't even them. They wasn't there. It was Puffy that was there and he must've put the order out. This must've been before The Hitmen and then.. Bom! Remix.. So one of our ideas got jacked, cause Big wanted it too, he wanted that.. He was like "Yo y'all do something with that one!" Cause we was playin' the records, he was sittin there.. just like that. We had not too long ago just finished layin' the fuckin' original "One More Chance" joint.. we had just finished layin' the shit probably like the week before. So we was in the studio again this time, it was to lay "Everyday Struggle" cause that song had just barely made the album. Cause we already had "Me and My Bitch" and "One More Chance", so he was pretty cool with us at that point, he was like good. But then we came and played that shit for him and it was on. He's like "Yo I need that!" So "Everyday Struggle" had just made the album. We was doin' the final touch ups and mixin' and shit, chillin with this dude, still. He used to call me to come chill with him when there wasn't even no sessions, I wasn't even layin' down no shit for the nigga he just be like, "What up! What up?" Cause I'd call him like, "Yo did you get that tape from the office or did you get that tape from Mark (Pitts)?" He'd be like, "Yeah.. What you doin'?" I'm like, "Yo nothin', whatever." He'd say "Yo meet me by Daddy's House." I'll meet the nigga by Daddy's House.. he ain't even driving! We go upstairs for half a second, give him another tape, he'll listen to shit and be like, "Yo come with me." I'm like, "Yo whatever. What is we about to do?" He's like, "Yo come on, I'm about to go to Hit Factory to go do some shit with Kim." So I'd roll with him to the Hit Factory and I ain't even got no sessions with the nigga! So I'd be up in the little waiting room there and Big is tellin' me like, "Roll this up, nigga, I'll be back." So I was rollin' around with him when it wasn't even no sessions. Then, on some next shit, I would run into him randomly, like before he switched up his styles to make shit blow totally, this nigga.. me and him runnin' into each other shoppin' at the same store! I backed into the nigga, pause, on some funny style shit. He didn't know I was in there and I ain't know he was in there. We ended up runnin' into each other near the fuckin' Carhartt hoodie sweatshirts section.. that's how bugged that shit is.
4XL: You also told me about Big giving you props on your rhyme skills...
Yup. One day it was some bugged shit, it was like some unexpected shit. Once again I'm comin' at him with another tape.. album is basically finished. I'm still bringin' shit. One day we was up in the office, he's sittin in Puffy's chair and the nigga is like, "Yo you know, like not for nothin man.. You be sayin' some shit. Like, yo, you are fuckin' insane! I fucks with you." And I'm just standin' there lookin at this nigga like is he serious? He's talkin' about me? This nigga's like, come on son.. the fuckin' king of rap at the time. That shit just made me think about shit in a whole different perspective. Like I said, I just wanted to be a fan of this shit and contribute but not actually see myself as being someone that's talked about by someone that I look up to, and you know, that shit has been successful. That shit was good enough for me right there. I ain't even have to do nothing else! I'm just off the strength of that in my mind. I'm like, "Shit nigga... What the fuck! I'm good money right now." So he comes to me with that shit on some real shit. I was totally shocked, that threw me for a loop.. like you're going to give me props and your stuff is all over the place, so it was really some bugged out shit for him to say what he said.
4XL: Why wasn't there any Bluez Brothers production on Big's 2nd album, "Life After Death"?
I think we were cut off at the path by Puffy. Puffy kinda took a stronghold over Big at this time and also, you know, he wasn't in the same place all the time cause certain things was happening he was tellin' me about. Like niggas callin' his crib and hangin' up, so he had to change his number every month. It was a lot of funny shit going on. He had got into that car accident if you remember around that time, remember he had the cane and all that? So he wasn't coming into New York like that. So that happened in the process of the 2nd album, he wasn't comin over, but Puffy was over at Daddy's House. I would give the tapes to Mark Pitts, who would give them to Puffy and then it's up to him to pass shit onto Big. So basically it was just on the strength of Puffy to give it to him. So if he didn't wanna do it or didn't like the tracks himself, then there you go, we don't make the album. Cause I'm pretty sure if he would've passed on whatever we had on them tapes, Biggie would've picked it, but Puff didn't give it to him. So I guess you could say that process could've been a direct hit to us because we didn't sign with Puff as producers or maybe they just wanted to go into a different direction. Puff probably didn't even listen to the shit.. heard a couple joints and was like, "Nah, I'm not gonna let him hear this."
4XL: In '95 you heated up the underground scene with two classic joints, "Sex" and "Feel It", released on Southpaw Records. Were those songs originally recorded for some sort of Delicious Vinyl project at the time?
Nah, those records weren't recorded for Delicious Vinyl. Southpaw was supposed to be a subsidiary of Delicious Vinyl. It was this guy Orlando Aguillen. He was like, "Yo give me some things I could put out on Southpaw." That was his little subsidiary of Delicious Vinyl to specifically do these things. He was a DJ as well out there so he could get records played out there and things like that. He had other DJ's, you know, he had a lot of connections. So really, that was my dude. Orlando was my dude. He gave me the first opportunity to be a solo artist in this business and let me be heard outside of me just being in The INC. I got my own personality, my own things too, so he was the first one to do it. I had been shopping for a solo deal prior to that situation, but my material wasn't really all that polished and I was still getting offers and getting looked at, but I never felt I was really ready at that time. In the process of shopping, Orlando came to me with the idea of giving him some records so he'd have a reason to pay me! (laughs) So he was also acting as my manager for a little bit, got me some situations and things of that nature.
4XL: So you eventually ended up on Big Beat/Atlantic later that year. How did that come about?
Well I was gonna sign with Delicious Vinyl, but the contract between Ace and me and with the production company had expired. So basically in sports terms, I'm a free agent at that point. I'm able to search around and look for a team. If I'm not happy with the terms that I had there or you don't re-sign me to a franchise player tag for a year then I'm gonna be lookin' at other teams and another team came about. I was shopping. So Delicious Vinyl missed out on signing me because they wanted me to sign back to Ace's production company and then he would basically be running my project. I didn't want that at the time cause his music and my music was two different things. I wanted to have my freedom and my status that I gained through doin' what we did to go in my own direction and Big Beat allowed me to do that. They gave me an all-in budget and at that time, that was really the big thing.. being able to control your own money. They give you a check and then you pay who you need to pay and you do what you gotta do. They gave me that opportunity and that's what I did. I wanted to do the Delicious Vinyl deal cause I already had that relationship with them and I think it probably would've done some shit for me cause I had forged a lot of relationships with niggas out there already and it was cool. I saw where Ace wasn't able to do the things that I was able to do, I think I probably would've capitalized more than he did by being on Delicious Vinyl. Everything was out there. Movie slots.. Everything, you know. It could've been something, but I wasn't gonna sit back and just let this dude do what he wanted to do with my money. So that situation didn't happen.
4XL: So Big Beat gave you the budget money and you put yourself up in the studio. How much material was done during that time? Was it all the material that's on this EP, aside from "Good Vibrations"?
Basically that was the start of it. I started recording the songs that are on the "High Plains" EP and that was about to become my album at that time. You know, a lot of things didn't even get laid down to tape, but that was the start of it. That's what I was spending my money on.
4XL: A couple of the joints on this EP feature an MC by the name of Logic. Who is he and what was his involvement in that project?
Logic was me when I was in my situation comin up. He was that person that I was, trying to be hungry. I was gonna to sign him and do the things I was gonna do. Like I said, he was gonna be me.. He was gonna be like in the shoes I was in coming up under Masta Ace.
4XL: What happened with the album for Big Beat and why did it not get released?
I felt that it was, you know, the common case of an artist not getting the attention they should be getting. I wasn't getting it because of the other bigger artists they had signed on their label and then, they had recently signed Ace also to a deal over there. I just didn't feel comfortable with working with them now knowing that. I don't know if they knew that we had a falling out like that, since it was recent and Ace had done some shit on my Big Beat project prior. But I don't know if they was trying to put the group back together or something. I don't know what the hell they was trying to do. But I just didn't feel that they knew what they were doing or knew the direction they were going in. They didn't know what to do with me and how to market me and some of the other artists they had over there. Once I saw that it was just like a discrepancy. I just didn't like what was going on and you know, to find out later after all of that, they dropped Ace anyway. With my situation, I didn't get dropped, I just left. I just got frustrated to the point where I refused to go into the studio and I refused to give them material and I was like, "Yo I'm not ready to give y'all material as of yet. I'm goin' to the studio, but I'm not ready for y'all to hear nothin' yet." So they was just like, "Yo whatever.." and I was like, "Whatever to y'all too." I just went to the studio when I wanted to.
4XL: So is that how you were able to control your masters?
Yeah, I had control over all of that. My masters was in my hands from the time I had the budget money to pay for my studio. That means I'm in command of all my reels.
4XL: Big Beat did release a promo 12" single containing the song "Man Digga Comin' Thru". Was that supposed to be the buzz single in '96?
No... Well at least I didn't intend it to be. I don't even know why they picked that. There was a bunch of other joints I turned in they could've picked that I thought were better, but I guess they liked that one. I didn't even know they were gonna promo that until I saw the record myself. If it had been up to me, I would've chose a different song and it might've done a lot better for me buzz-wise.
4XL: What really happened between you and Masta Ace? Tell us why there was a falling out and you were no longer a part of The INC.
Well what happened is what usually happens when you start making a little bit of money you stop paying attention to the little things that got you to the point of where you are now. Once that happens, you know, sometimes you lose sight of where you're trying to go musically. You know, you start to do music to be accepted and not do music from your original talent. Like you should be using your talent and coming up with something creative, doing it in that manner.. giving your best creative work and puttin' that foot forward instead of just doing tracks because you think that niggas in Cali is gonna like it. So once that came forward, I personally started to distance myself from the situation. I didn't like the direction they was going in. I was telling him you know, "You should put out other songs other than this and etc." That's the reason why I started shying away from the situation. Then later he was like, "Yo you're out of the group." I guess cause I was causing turmoil. I was like Terrell Owens in the locker room or something (laughs). So it ain't really matter to me at that point, cause you know I felt that without me influencing some of his stuff or whatever, the whole INC thing, it's gonna eventually die anyway. Not to say that I was the one that was holding up the group, never that, but I was a strong part of the sound. I give respect to Ace, like I said earlier, he didn't have to bring me along, so I appreciate that. But things just didn't work out in the end so it is what it is today.
4XL: When did this breakaway occur?
It was into '95 when I started to distance myself. I got the deal with Big Beat in '95 and we did a couple things but by '96 I was basically out of the group. We had done a couple of shows in early '95 and then by '96 I was done. No more Lord Digga in The INC.
4XL: I've always heard you had some sort of history with the Cella Dwellas before they got signed to Loud back in the day. Is that true?
I watched Cella Dwellas develop their style and helped shape some of their earlier shit by being in sessions with them, cause we would be in my man's basement rhymin' and doin' stuff with different tracks. So they got adapted to me on that note before they got out there and tried to get they deal. But I was a big part of their situation too because I actually shipped their first single on a DAT to them so they could do it proper in the studio to record it so that Loud Records could hear it. That's what basically got them their situation. One of those songs got them their deal, which was "Land of the Lost." I'm not gonna say it completely got them their deal, but it helped a lot. It was one of the songs that was played in the listening session during the label decision. They gave them a deal with "Land of the Lost." We had a little place we used to go all the time and hangout and which was my man Larrick's basement and he knew them. I used to come by there and Larrick used to hijack tapes from me and be over there playin' shit and they would be over there rhymin' and doin' all types of shit and I'd go over and I'm there with them. One thing led to another.. like I said, I didn't even know them at this time like that. You know, I'm off in Cali and they callin' me like, "Yo! We need that track so we could do this demo for Loud!" I didn't even know them like that, you know, just from the times being at Larrick's house, and I went ahead and did it. I sent it to them. And back then, you could master shit off of DAT. You can fuckin' go and flip some shit and master some shit off of DAT on some 2-track shit, mothafuckas was doin' that shit. So I reluctantly sent it to them.. I was like fuck it! But you know, everything worked out and we ended up with like 3 songs on their first album. So it all worked out on that situation.
4XL: Did you have any other history with some of the artists you produced for like Mystidious Misfitss and Dredknotz?
No, I never knew about Mystidious Misfitss until I did the production work for their project. I knew of the Dredknotz, but I didn't know the members of the group. Ezo, which was the same dude I told you about earlier that I was doin' production with and recording songs, was the producer and the DJ for that group. Daddy Rich had something to do with their group and whatever else because he's the one that took them to Dante (Ross) over there and he was the one that got them their situation. So they was fuckin' around on the project and they came up with the "Causin' A Menace" joint which was the single that they were doing at the time. Like I said, I had my hands on basically every drum machine then at that time, you know, SP-1200, MPC, whatever it was. Rich had the MPC too over at the crib and he said he was trying to come up with a remix for this song and that we could do whatever and we good money. So that's how it started. I'm over there fuckin' around.. did a pattern and did some kicks here, added some shit there.. and then we took some shit from Cannonball Adderly. And there you have it, "Causin' A Menace Remix", just that simple. I got full credit for it. Then later on that group disbanded. I think the main MC just left and quit and they never finished the album.
4XL: What about Lord Have Mercy? For some reason I always thought you had an affiliation with him involving the Red Guerillaz group that y'all were down with.
He was comin' over by my dude Larrick's crib too. He was affiliated with Cella Dwellas. Red Guerillaz was a group that I was just like an honorary member of. I wasn't officially a part of that group at first. I had a partnership with some other dudes in a studio we put together. It was their project. Lord Have Mercy was just featured on that single. Before Flipmode and all that, he was actually in a crew called The Moorelocks. His name used to be Rugged Raw Moore.
4XL: Over the years I've been told that you were actually in the same porno movie as Sondoobie from Funkdoobiest. Can you explain that?
I was in the same series as Sondoobie, not the same video. The series was "Dark Alleys" with Ron Hightower. I played the part of a construction foreman in a comedy kind of skit. I was like clownin' this dude comin' in and calling him all types of names and tellin' him he was fired. Ron Hightower was a fan of ours, I don't even know how we met. We ended up chillin' with him and you know he was like, "Yo you wanna be in a scene or two?" and I'm like "Yo I ain't fucking! Nigga I ain't fuckin' on camera." (laughs) He's like, "Nah I got some non-fuckin' roles for you." So next time I come out to Cali, it was like some real spontaneous shit. He called and asked what we was doing one morning and he's like, "Get down here to the set! I'm on such and such." I was like, "Nigga, I don't know how to get there." That mothafucka came and got me! Brought me over there and the rest was history. I was officially in a porno. But I think Sondoobie actually fucked, B. I was gonna get to that stage but I wanted to start out on a lower scale first (laughs).
4XL: You released the classic "My Flows Is Tight" single on the infamous Game Recordings label in '98. How did that situation happen?
That situation came about because of relationships that I had built along the way. Ironically too, on some other shit, Jon Shecter was a big part of The Source but I didn't hang with him or nothing like that when I was up there back in those earlier days. I was mainly fuckin' with Matt. We chilled with Jon and them, but you know, they was like the big wigs up there.. him and Dave Mays. So you don't really wanna chill with the bosses and shit like that. But we used to chill with them occasionally and smoke by Matt's crib or in the office staircases or whatever. But really I think me going over to Stretch and Bobbito a lot, I ran into Jon cause you know him and Stretch had some office space and shit which was Game. I don't even think it was just only Game Recordings, it was like Game something or whatever, some conglomerate, like a big Ricky Schroeder 'Silver Spoon' type of shit (laughs). Jon is one of those type of dudes. He's the modern day Ricky Schroeder. So it started like that. He knew that we had the studio out in Brooklyn, so he used to travel out there. He used to grab some purple and come out there. One day he came and I was playing some of the takes which would later become "Flows Is Tight".. it was just me rhyming on 'The Price Is Right' beat and he went fuckin' bananas like, "I need this shit right now! That shit is insane!" And just took it from there.
4XL: Was that just a single deal or were you signed for an album over there?
No, that was a single deal. We had started doing something else, but the next single was supposed to be what eventually became the joint "Who You Rollin With" that I did on Bronx Science around 2001 or so.
4XL: On some hip hop trivia shit, a lot of heads out there may not know that your younger brother is actually Stimuli a/k/a Sha Stimuli, who's been blazing the NYC mixtape circuit for years and eventually landed a deal with Virgin Records. Tell us a little about him and how he came up.
Basically he travelled some of the same roads I travelled in a sense. But his was a little closer.. like the degrees of separation was a little bit closer cause I lived in the house with him. So we kinda grew into hip hop together, even though he was younger than me. Because I got him into it by my reaction to the shit and him seeing how I would get up and watch Video Music Box or get up and watch Soul Train every morning.. and he would see just if hip hop artists was on it or not. Also, he would get to hear tracks first hand that nobody else would hear because either I didn't let nobody hear them or they wasn't ready to be heard at that point. But I still would put them on tape and bring them in the crib and be playin' them shits and blastin' them loud and his room was right next door to mine. So he would be like, "Yo what you gonna do with that? Let me get that!" I'm like, "Let you get that for what? Nigga, go to school! What are you trying to do for real? Like get the fuck outta here!" (laughs) Then basically we started goin' through our.. what you would call.. our rap karaoke nights where we was pickin' who we was gonna be and most of the time it was you know, whatever group we would see that would come on TV that was like a duo or whatever. We would imitate them and just do stupid shit in the crib all the time, buggin' out. Nice & Smooth, you know, shit like that.. EPMD, you know.. different shit. We would go through the joints and act out that shit. In a sense I just put the damn needle in his arm and just started slappin' him. I Sugarhill'ed him, like gave him the drug! (laughs) Then he started pursuing the rap thing more when he was in high school. But most people don't know that we're brothers. It's similar to Kane and Little Daddy Shane. You'd look at Shane and be like, "He doesn't look like Kane at all!" It's the same thing with me and my brother. I mean there's a few resemblances between us, but most people don't know we're brothers like that. But I'm proud of him, you know, he did his own thing. Nobody knew or really was like, "Yeah, oh well that's Digga's brother and that's how we got the deal." No it didn't happen like that. He got it on his own doing what he did with his people and that's it.
4XL: Tell us what to expect in the future from Digga. Are you working on any new music?
I'm just basically right now attempting to put together a couple of projects. I formed a group called Smoking Section and I'm working on some ideas for that project. That's in the process of being recorded right now. I'm just staying fresh and working on multiple albums, you know, I don't know which one I'm gonna put out first, but I'm doing like 3 different albums that I started recording. You know, like different shit.. sex albums, just straight adult entertainment albums. And then you know, maybe a straight raw hip hop album. You know, just different shit that I'm doing and still producing, keeping myself reinvented. I'm always reinventing myself and progressing and just trying not to be stale with ideas and just fuckin' stay creative and I think that that would put my best music forward. You know, not doin' what everybody else does. I do what I do, you know, the same thing as if it was the mid 90's. It's just now it's more refined and more polished. Same thing I was doing then, I'm doing it now but it's just, you know, 2008.. just the millenium Diggs. That's what I'm gonna present myself as like, you know, I was young then but I've grown up now, so I've transformed myself from Digga to High Plains Drifter to Diggaman so I just gotta stay fresh cause that's all I know how to do.. keep saying ridiculous shit, that's it!
4XL: Word up! Well that closes our interview. This has definitely been one of the longest interviews that I've done, but it was well worth it. Thanks for taking the time out give everyone a look into the hip hop world of Lord Digga.
Son, no question! Peace to all my fans and supporters. Diggaman 2008, out.