From Wu-Tang To “Heist Of The Century” Reissue: LA The Darkman Is Back With A Vengeance

As the re-pressings get ready to ship, the rap vet spoke to AllHipHop about the making of “Heist of the Century,” why he essentially disappeared after its release and his new guest appearance on Killarmy’s “Winter Warz 2.”

Wu-Tang Clan associate LA The Darkman is emerging from the shadows, gearing up for the re-issue of his debut album, Heist of the Century. Released in 1998, the project was produced by Carlos “Six July” Broady, 4th Disciple, Havoc of Mobb Deep, RZA, Raekwon and Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs. Guest features include Wu-Tang Clan members and affiliates such as Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa and U-God.

In celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary, Coalmine Records and Aphilliates Music Group have teamed up for the first re-issue since its original pressing. Remastered by D-Sane at Digital Age Sound, the re-issue is limited to just 2,000 copies. The VMP exclusive version was pressed on Purple Smoke vinyl at GZ Vinyl, and the two LPs will arrive in a widespine, direct-to-board, foil-stamped and numbered jacket. Vinyl copies are available in classic black vinyl through Coalmine Records’ web storeGet On Down and Bandcamp, while the VMP version can be found here. Overseas fans can purchase a solid purple version via Vin-Dig.

As the re-pressings get ready to ship, LA The Darkman spoke to AllHipHop about the making of the project, why he essentially disappeared after its release and his latest guest appearance on Killarmy’s “Winter Warz 2” featuring Wu-Tang Killer Beez, Cappadonna, Killah Priest, Shyheim and Young Dirty Bastard and produced by 9th Prince. Check back with AllHipHop for Part II on Monday (February 26) in which he’ll provide an update on Wu-Tang’s rare Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album and his upcoming Heist of the Century sequel.

AllHipHop: Heist of the Century is a great album title. Can you take me back to when you came up with that name and explain how it fit the theme of the project?

LA The Darkman: That’s a good question. I really felt that I was pulling off a strategic type of heist. So it was kind of aimed toward the music industry, most of the title. It was the heist of the century; I was pulling it off at such a young age that I was able to secure a certain contract and then also just do a good album. So it seemed like a heist all the way across the board, not only just the fact of putting the music together, but it seemed like just a well thought out plan. I had the blueprints and things like that to make the album come to fruition. So I kind of looked at it as like a “heist” and then “of the century” because it was so big for me being 17 years old when I started recording it. It was such a big thing for me that I really felt I was pulling off something catastrophic. 

You were only 17 when you started writing this?

Yes, I actually dropped it when I was 17 turning 18. I was fresh out of high school when I dropped the album.

The album sounds like that of a very mature person. The fact you sampled Jimmy Spicer for it is mind-blowing.

There’s a crazy story behind that. I think Steve Rifkin’s father, who helped birth Wu-Tang with the deal and everything, I think his father actually had something to do with that record, so that’s why it was able to get cleared. I think it was on Steve Rifkin’s father’s label, so when we went for the clearance, it was kind of easy to get cleared because he had something to do with the original record. 

It’s been 25 years since you dropped Heist of the Century. Can you believe that? 

Not really. It seemed like it just went so fast. It seemed like it’s supposed to be like 15 years or something, but yeah, 25. I feel good about it, though. I’m a student in life, so I’m still learning new things all the time. So I look at it kind of like a fine wine type of thing.

I think we do kind of get better with age, too. 

Yeah, it’s the maturity. 

How did the reissue idea come together?

Oh, it was my idea. I was already planning on it for a while, but I just wanted the right time, and I think the 25th anniversary was the right time. I tried to do the 20th. I had planned to at one point in time, but there was other things going on and I was doing other things with other companies, so I really didn’t get a chance.

It turned out really well. You dropped the album and in terms of solo work, you kind of disappeared for a while. Where did you go?

After dropping Heist of the Century, we were independent. A lot of people thought it was on like Loud Records or Def Jam or something like that. But we were independent label. So I was kind of doing the Master P blueprint at a young age. I got a distribution deal that was worth like 1.5 million. Then I really just started investing in real estate, I opened a clothing store and a bar lounge. So I just started investing in different businesses. And I just love business so much that I kinda got away from the music. I’m kind of like a serial entrepreneur, a little bit. I just started opening a few different other business ventures and real estate was so lucrative that I didn’t go back in the booth. And then around 2003, 2004, I started the Aphilliates Music Group (AMG) and Aphilliates Management in Atlanta. I signed other artists like Willie the Kidd, DJ Drama and Don Cannon. I signed DJs and artists and then I made a record label, so I stepped into a more of an executive role. 

Even though I was executive on Heist of the Century, after I dropped the album, we did so well I just went more executive producer than artist. I produced DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz albums, Volume 1 and 2.  I also did Willie the Kid’s album, and he was a flagship artist off the Aphilliates Music Group. So I really started making other people’s careers and building albums for other people. As you see, I A&R’ed all those Gangsta Grillz albums: who rapped first, who rapped last, what beat they rapped on—all that came out of my mind. 

Super smart. 

Yeah, I kind of take that from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s line: “I’m the one-man army.” I do run with that a little bit.

You had so much success when you were a teenager, was that kind of overwhelming in a sense to all of a sudden have the world at your fingertips. have all these resources and be able to basically do what you want to do?

Not at all. I think I kind of dreamed it that way. I had big dreams; I’m a big dreamer and I’ve had a few people when I was growing up laugh at my dreams. It’s understandable because they were older people and when I was telling them what I was planning to do, they kind of chuckled. But  I’ve always been optimistic.

How did you link with Wu-Tang Clan? 

I wasn’t trying to be an artist when I met Wu-Tang. And when I met Wu-Tang, I didn’t meet the rappers. I actually met the executive producers, so I didn’t know who they were. I met RZA’s brother Devon, his homeboy Tyrese and his other homeboy Power. So I didn’t know the rappers. I got in through the executive producers of the 36th Chamber album. I was hanging out with them just on some neighborhood thing and they took a liking to this young guy. I was a young neighborhood cat, had a few dollars and was doing my thing. I was a fly guy.

And then I learned that they were the executive producers from the Wu-Tang. But before that, I always had a vision that I was gonna meet EPMD. This is right before they got with Redman and Keith Murray. I envisioned I would just rap for them and it would go from there. But what really actually happened, it ended up being Wu-Tang. But I thought it was going to be EPMD ‘cause I grew up in Brooklyn, so I always used to see Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and Kool G Rap at the Albee Square Mall in Brooklyn. They used to always come to the shop. To see rappers at a young age, I knew that I could touch them. It wasn’t far fetched.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by La The Darkman aka L.A.D (@thelathedarkman)

Yeah, you knew it was possible. Can you tell me a little bit about growing up in Crown Heights and what your household was like? 

I grew up with my mom and she was into music—but not like that. She used to play music, but she wasn’t a music connoisseur or anything. She used to always listen to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross. I heard a lot of music in the house, definitely. She wasn’t a selector and she didn’t have a lot of albums, but she would play the radio when she’d be cleaning up the house, so I always heard hits. I heard classics from Stevie Wonder to Aretha Franklin to Smokey Robinson to Whitney Houston, even Boy George. I always listened to a plethora of different genres of music. One of the songs that made me want to do Hip-Hop was LL COOL J’s “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.” I used to take my boombox to the bathroom when I was about 5 years old and play that song over and over and over and over again. I took to Rakim, Slick Rick, KRS-One, LL COOL J and the music they were making. 

For me it really started with Beastie Boys’ License to Ill in 1986. That was the s### to me. 

It was the s### to me also. “Paul Revere” and “Brass Monkey?” Cut it out [laughs].

Tell me a little bit about your inclusion in Wu-Tang. Was it crazy to all of a sudden be affiliated with the biggest hip-hop group at the time? 

Everybody knows that logo. Like I said, I met the executive producers of Wu-Tang and developed a relationship with them before I knew they were Wu-Tang. So I didn’t meet them on music stuff, I met them on some neighborhood stuff. We was in a neighborhood and after we were kicking it for say four or five months, then I realized that these were the people from Wu-Tang. I had heard someone said it and I really didn’t believe it. Then one day, Method Man came and that’s when I knew it was real. I had already been with them four, five, six months. They didn’t even know I rapped. That’s why this s### was so special too— they didn’t know I rapped. They just knew me as a neighborhood dude with the BMW and the Cuban link before Raekwon’s album was named Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by La The Darkman aka L.A.D (@thelathedarkman)

How were you making money before your rap career? 

I had my first job in New York when I was 10 years old. I used to work at a stationary store, so I’ve been a hustler ever since. They used to pay me $50 a week. So I had $400 or $500 at the age of 10. They used to call me “Little Jew Boy” and I didn’t understand it then, but it was the way I saved my money. I’ve always had money. I was always a person who was able to conjure up things and do different things to generate revenue. I think that’s why the executive producers of the Clan took a liking to me. As a young soldier, they took a liking to me and then it became musical. The first time I ever knew they did music, Method Man came  by and we went to the studio. He was rapping and somebody else told him that I rap. Method Man passed me the mic and then I just caught the glow. 

So Method Man put the mic in your hand and then it was on? 

Method Man put the mic in my hand and it was on, yes. And then it became a musical relationship. The rest is history.

No wonder you were a millionaire by the time you were a teenager.

I kept wanting to make more money, but it’s not the money that drove me. It was really the craft that drove me. Doing the business successfully drove me, too. Like I tell my sons, the money just kept adding up. I really never did a lot of things for money.

I relate. The fact I get paid to do this job is crazy to me. All of a sudden you look at your bank account and you’re like, “Wow.”  What’s your relationship with Wu-Tang today? 

We got a lot of new music that’s about to come out. I’m doing something with 9th Prince, RZA and all the Wu-Tang producers. I got something coming with Fourth Disciple. I got something coming with True Master. I got something coming with all the Wu-Tang producers. I’m gearing up to put the flag back out there, so I’m finna come out from under the Darkman mask. I got like five new songs with RZA, three or four with Raekwon…we just released “Winter Warz 2” with me, Capadonna, Killer Priest, Young Dirty Bastard and Shyheim produced by 9th Prince.