Diamond D: Dope On Plastic

AllHipHop represents for those who can recite a verse from beginning to end, those who quote lyrics to explain serious life situations, and those who have an arsenal of punch-line snaps in their raps. But AllHipHop has just as much love for the producer. From eight bar loops, to live instrumentation, to the Triton, we love true beat makers and trunk shakers. So we continue our series of interviews with the greatest, most innovative producers in Hip-Hop history. In depth interviews looking back, peering forward, and always looking for the perfect beat.

Diamond is the MC who made your favorite rapper today rhyme better and inspired favorite producer. With his early work on projects by Fat Joe, Brand Nubian, Show & A.G., and his must-have debut album, Diamond D was a link in the chain from the birth of Hip-Hop to the future. Diamond’s style has always been centered around funk loops and floor-shaking percussion. The sound is simple, but it reeks of true Hip-Hop then, now, and always. Like others, Diamond carries the professionalism including a Grammy, and multi-platinum status. But unlike most, Diamond D is deeply rooted in the streets, and carries a credibility with Hip-Hop that few can even get close to. In an ultra-rare interview, AllHipHop and Diamond chop it up. We get brutally honest on our end, and he follows with his. We discuss the old albums, the new album, the legends, and even the unlikely punks who jumped up to get beat down. Ladies and gents…the self-proclaimed and undisputed best producer on the mic.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve only released three albums so to speak, over twelve years. On a day to day basis these days, what is your work ethic like?

Diamond D: I don’t know, I try to make at least four or five beats a day. Sometimes, some beats I might leave up on my drum machine for two or three days. I might feel it’s missing something. Some beats come quick.

AllHipHop.com: Obviously only a few ever see the light or get used. What do you do with the others?

Diamond D: Some [of the] beats I make, I have no intention on sellin’. I just make and I just make it for myself. It depends.

AllHipHop.com: Last year you worked with Akrobatik. I thought that it was great that you still get involved with the underground. What motivates you and allows you to keep it live on all levels?

Diamond D: I just try to keep those lines open. I don’t want nobody to think that they need twenty or thirty grand to work with me. If we vibe and we connect on that level, then it’s all good.

AllHipHop.com: On your new record, Grown Man Talk, I know it’s self-released. But it’s nice to see you’re not afraid to rock an obvious sample or two. But with the official releases, how has sampling laws changed your style in things?

Diamond D: Wow, well, I mean, it’s like a double-edged sword. I’ve been able to live comfortably for the last thirteen-fourteen years. There was a period when sampling was frowned upon at one time. Everybody was keyboard crazy. What goes around, comes around. Now you’ve got guys like Just Blaze, Kanye West, they always biggin’ me up in they articles, and you know, now sampling has come back full circle and that’s a plus. But you know, I also make beats where I use no samples. I try to think of myself on a level of Dr. Dre productionwise. He samples, and plays instruments. So I try to do both – although, I know the majority of the music in my career is a heavy sample base. But I’m not close-minded where I wouldn’t use a keyboard at all – if only to enhance to what the samples are doing.

AllHipHop.com: What instruments do you play, besides the keyboard?

Diamond D: Drums, flute.

AllHipHop.com: Did you learn drums as a young guy or later on?

Diamond D: Younger guy. I learned in High School.

AllHipHop.com: I’ve always wanted to know about Fat Joe. His debut which you largely did, is a timeless record. I still respect that hell out of Joe, and I think he respects Hip-Hop more than most. But even though he’s part of the D.I.T.C. team, how you feel about his “new sound” which kind of goes against the Diggin’ sound?

Diamond D: I’m proud of Joe. I’ve seen Joe from his humble beginnings til’ now. Well, well damn. I want to be truthful with this too. I don’t have anything to say. Me and Joe are still cool. I’m supposed to be working on this Terror Squad album that’s coming out. As far as him making the production decisions that he makes, he’s his own man. Of course you got to change with the times. So, I’m not mad at him. I don’t know what else to say.

AllHipHop.com: One thing that’s great about you is, you’re usually with cats who came before you, Jazzy Jay and 45 King to name two. You really pay respect to those who paved the way. What have those two guys done for you?

Diamond D: Both of them were on and both of them were hot before me. I respect Mark [the 45 King] because back in ’92 when Mark was doing stuff for Madonna and all these big name people – back then Russell Simmons had a producers’ management and it was called RPM, Rush Producers Management. There was a lady over there named Fran, she works for Bad Boy now. Back then, Fran was trying to court 45 King so she could manage him. And Mark, she felt my sh*t so strongly back then that he actually told Fran, “You can manage me, but you gotta pick up this new guy named Diamond too.” Which she did. One of my first jobs I did under RUSH was, remember that song, “Tom’s Diner?” I did the remix for that – which was a pretty big deal because that was a hot song. At any rate, ever since Mark did that, we’ve been cool and I’ve always kept him close to me. Jazzy Jay, I met Jazzy Jay in 1985. He already had Masters of Ceremony. He had did LL Cool J’s first two singles, “I Need a Beat” and all that. He more or less took me under his wing. I was into beats and Jay being Bambaataa’s right hand man, I was more or less in Heaven at that time. We just stayed close. Jay had a studio. I did Fat Joe’s first album there, Finesse album, Showbiz & A.G., I brought everybody there.

AllHipHop.com: How did the “Best Producer on the Mic” banner come about?

Diamond D: I just felt that way, so I said it. That was on the Fugees project.

AllHipHop.com: Even though by ’95 people knew better, has anybody ever challenged you on that?

Diamond D: No. Nah, I mean I listen to everybody’s stuff. I feel that lyrically, I’m either better or on the same level.

AllHipHop.com: With Grown Man Talk, my first listen – I didn’t get it. But it really grew on me. But beyond that project, what have you got going on in near future?

Diamond D: I’m trying to get a distribution deal. So the next I make will be an official release.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned “The Score.” I think your song is what stands off that classic album ten years later. Talk about the vibe in making that song and recording it?

Diamond D: The vibe was beautiful. The f*cked up thing is that Wyclef, I don’t respect him. To me, he’s not a man. What he did was, he begged me, he BEGGED ME, not to clear the sample. I said, “Yo, what are you talking about? You got a budget. Clear the sample.” [He said,] “D, we have no more money left for the sample. But I’ll tell you what Diamond – if the sample comes up, I’ll be a man and we’ll split the responsibility.” Then, when the album blew up, the motherf*cker turned his back on me. And that’s real. Me and Busta Rhymes did that one time. The sample issue did come up. But unlike Wyclef, Busta kept his word and he did the right thing. I think that was real f*cked. I might’ve only saw about eighty grand from that Fugees project.

AllHipHop.com: Before the sample?

Diamond D: Yeah. Once the sample came up, Clef acted like he ain’t even know me. I see Fat Joe dancing around with him in his f*ckin’ videos, and I’m like, “What the f*ck is going on, yo!” All I did to Wyclef was show him love. I don’t give a f*ck if you [print it] ‘cuz it is what it is. It’s the truth. It’s f*cked up, I got a Grammy for that record, but that album gives me to most headaches. I had a chance to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. They sold twenty million albums! And I’m basically locked out ‘cuz I signed a contract stating that there was no samples in it, which was my fault. We stood face to face and we shook hands. I trusted homeboy, straight up and down. Pras and Lauryn were like, “Damn D, what can we do? We know it’s f*cked up that ‘Clef did that, but you did sign the contract.” I don’t have no respect for dogs at all.

AllHipHop.com: How do you weight your career as a producer against your career as an MC?

Diamond D: I don’t, but most of my money has come from producing. I’m aware of that. My first album, everybody said it was a classic – but soundscan’s got me at like 2-300,000. I don’t feel bad. Illmatic was Nas’ least selling album.

AllHipHop.com: I believe Kool G. Rap never went gold either.

Diamond D: I thought 4,5,6 went gold, I guess it didn’t. Most of my money I’ve made in the past decade, definitely came from producing. I’m just trying to get my artist career back in swing.

Diamond’s newest Grown Man Talk is available at online retail outlets.