In an era where an increasing amount of artists are seemingly attaining overnight success, few have accumulated a timeline of consistent career-developing experiences like the subject of this Breeding Ground Spotlight, Dirty Diana.
A New York City native currently residing in Atlanta, Diana also spends time in California. She finds that each city uniquely influences her writing and rapping styles, as trends and lifestyles tend to differ. On her latest mixtape, R.I.P. to the Competition hosted by DJ Scream, the charismatic MC rhymes atop a mix of original tracks, sharing the mic with several guests including Gunplay and Cory Gunz, and freestyles over classic and popular instrumentals ranging from Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya” to Jeezy’s “Get Right”.
Growing up in the Bronx in the late ‘90s, Diana developed a relationship with a family friend, hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc, who remains an inspiration. Becoming more involved throughout her teen-aged years, Diana enrolled in the Teens In Motion organization, which helped to develop her interviewing skills and stage presence, among other qualities required of hip-hop artists and entertainers. Her involvement garnered recognition from Jeff Robinson, President of MBK Entertainment who was once the long-time manager to Alicia Keys. Impressed, Robinson included Diana on an MBK Entertainment DVD that highlighted up-n-coming artists. During the time between then and now, Diana has been booked as an opening performer for Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, Onyx, and Pretty Ricky, among others, as she’s independently distributed several other releases.
But prior to earning the Kool Herc co-sign, attention of Robinson, or performing on stage for audiences of thousands, Diana earned her stripes in ways that hip-hop purists, street critics, and rhyming peers would admire.
AllHipHop.com: What was your introduction to hip-hop and how did you get started with rapping?
Dirty Diana: I grew up in the Bronx, I was around a whole bunch of guys all the time. Seeing Video Music Box, I was a Lauryn Hill stan. Lauryn Hill was a great inspiration of mine. I just wanted to do it. I actually started writing with the pen… I might be in high school writing rhymes, I would hop in on the ciphers with all the guys. It would be like, ‘who is this only female in the cipher?’ That’s where the passion and the love started gravitating the audience.
AllHipHop.com: What was it like being in the cipher with all guys?
Dirty Diana: You grab their attention, because first of all they’re shocked. And then they’re like, ‘this female is saying this?!’ I like the attention, I like the audience. It could start with a small cipher, but once people see a female in there, everybody starts coming over wanting to hear something. So, that hunger right there, I always loved it. I always had a love and passion for grabbing an audience.
AllHipHop.com: How did the other females on the hip-hop scene respond?
Dirty Diana: Most females get intimidated, because my style is very aggressive. I have a very aggressive delivery, so they get intimidated cause maybe their delivery is a little weaker than mine, and I’ll come out and might say a punchline and they might get a little offended. So most of them kind of go back into their little shell, and I’d just command the crowd and take over. Most of the time that’s how it is, to this day, with me.
AllHipHop.com: Can you recall a defining moment that you’ve had on stage?
Dirty Diana: I had did this one poem that was about history, it named all of the rappers coming up. It went from 1981 all the way up to the current year. I performed it at a show and someone heard it and was like, ‘hey, we want you to open up for Doug E. Fresh and Kurtis Blow, all of them guys is getting ready to do a big old-school concert and we want you to open up.’ So I got invited out here in Georgia to open up the show, and it was crowded. That was one of the biggest shows I’ve ever done, and I was able to rock the crowd and had everybody singing along with the hook. I went on and on and on, from ’82 to ’83 to ’84 (laughs).
AllHipHop.com: Let’s have some fun. I’m gonna throw out some names of female MC’s throughout hip-hop’s history, and you could let us know your thoughts and how they may influence you. Let’s start with MC Lyte.
Dirty Diana: I loved MC Lyte’s voice. To me, her voice stood out and the delivery was always crazy. She expresses woman power to me, independent woman power. She stood out a little bit more than the other females, because she had a more demanding delivery.
AllHipHop.com: Lil Kim.
Dirty Diana: Lil Kim is hardcore. I’ll always have respect for Lil Kim. She kinda took the game to another level, as far as street wise. She brought that female, sexy, street hardcore-ness to the game. She got a lot of classic records… of course she came out with Biggie. But that’s what I get from Lil Kim, the hardcore, sexy, street style, which… you know, I love her music.
AllHipHop.com: Foxy Brown.
Dirty Diana: Foxy Brown is somebody I consider a lyrical person. Her lyrical content, and also her delivery, was crazy. Comparing her and Lil Kim… Lil Kim was sexy/hardcore, but Foxy Brown had a little bit more lyrical content. When her and Jay-Z did that song together, whew! That took her all the way to the top.
AllHipHop.com: Azealia Banks.
Dirty Diana: Azealia Banks actually reminds me a little bit of Foxy Brown. If you really listen to Azealia Banks, and not just her commercial stuff, she has a unique style. She’s being different and creative, her beats are techno. She kinda could rock any type of crowd. But, underground she really could rap. She’s dope.
AllHipHop.com: Nicki Minaj.
Dirty Diana: Nicki’s dope. I call Nicki a game-changer, cause she kinda did her own thing and it worked. She went all the way outside the box, and it worked.
AllHipHop.com: As a female MC, or as an MC period, what role does appearance play for you as an entertainer, being on stage and in front of people?
Dirty Diana: I think appearance very, very important. First impression is the best impression, so you’ve gotta put your best foot forward. So if you’re coming out, you wanna make sure your hair’s done, your make-up is done. You wanna look your best at all times. So, that is very, very important in this game.
AllHipHop.com: What do you do to differentiate yourself in that regard?
Dirty Diana: I try to be myself. You know, a lot of people think you need a gimmick nowadays, but I don’t think you need a gimmick. I’m different already, I like to be different. When I shop, I buy things that nobody else would buy. Somebody else might think it’s ugly but then when I wear it it looks hot. So, I think being real… you can’t go wrong with being as real as you can get, especially when you’re already a unique person. My style is already unique, I’ve always been different.