Some of todays stars have been a long-time coming. 50 Cent, Camron, and Ja Rule can never say that fame fell in their lap. The early records they made were instrumental, along with the business mistakes to get them where they are today. The same can be said of two producers who helped these artists achieve that sound.
For Ja Rules first three albums, as well as DMXs first, Lil Rob was a force to be reckoned with. Hype Williams nephew was the Incs best kept secret. As names like Irv Gotti, Dame Grease, and Seven Aurilius grew, he stayed low-key. The producer gave Ja Rule some of his strongest hits, as well as gems for Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek in his downtime. Overnight, that all went away.
Digga was the genius that provided Camron with a sound for his first two albums. From 357 to Let Me Know, Digga was Camrons musical parallel. When Untertainment folded and Cam went to the Roc, things fizzled between the two. Although hes put in work for Ghostface and 50, Digga is not getting the credit his deserves.
AllHipHop.com is always into something. As fans of both of these guys work, we wanted to hear their stories, get some real facts, and see just how two major producers selflessly made two of Hip-Hops brightest stars.
AllHipHop.com: Whats going on with you right now?
Lil Rob: I started up my company, Six Shot Music. Im just trying to get everything organized with that getting a team together so that I could eventually start a label.
Digga: Well [I got] Six Figga Entertainment.
AllHipHop.com: So what are you doing with that day-to-day?
Lil Rob: Just producing, gettin it out. Ive had stuff out three years ago, and music has changed. Im tryin to change with the music and stuff.
Digga: I have two producers, E Pillz and Q that work with me. My main goal is to establish a brand. As an independent producer, I have accomplished a lot. Now its time to take it to the next level by helping others and creating a business for the future.
AllHipHop.com: Looking backwards, do you consider yourself a Def Jam producer, or Murder Inc. or what?
Lil Rob: Umm, I mean [laughs], thats a good question because I did do a lot of stuff for Def Jam. But I was working through The Inc., so thats an ill question, right there. I considered myself a little bit as both. I did start off with Irv. He brought me in the game. He was an A&R for Def Jam.
AllHipHop.com: People say different things, Seven Aurelius had alluded that Irv wasnt always fair with his producers in terms of payment and credit. What would you say?
Lil Rob: Im not gonna really say that Irv treated me bad. Because overall, through all the experiences with him, he has taught me a lot of things. The only thing that I experienced with Irv, that was bad, was a small part of the business, as far as me getting paid through certain areas. Theres a few ways to get paid in the game. Theres one thing that I experienced that I didnt get paid for. Im not gonna say Irv did me dirty. Overall, he didnt. In all actuality, he taught me how to use the drum machine Im using now. He paved a good path for me. I have seen a lot of grease go down with him, but Im not gonna go there.
AllHipHop.com: Why did the working relationship stop?
Lil Rob: When I would approach him and ask certain questions about certain things, I would get half-assed answers Rob, dont worry about it, s**t like that. It turned me off. Damn dog, how come I cant get an answer? I would go out and do some research on things, and I would find out stuff. Okay, the n***a really isnt keeping it real with me. As a friend, he was cool. When it came to ask the questions about the business, it made me distance myself from the camp. I was putting out a lot for the camp! I was getting music placed, and n***as was blowin up. I just didnt feel comfortable asking questions and not getting all the answers.
AllHipHop.com: Has there ever been stuff that you did with somebody elses name on it?
Lil Rob: Oh no.
AllHipHop.com: Digga, Epic is heavily criticized for its poor handlings of Hip-Hop in the late 90s. Why is that? Was it Lance Un Rivera, or what?
Digga: Epic didn't understand Hip-Hop music. Back then, Puff and Bad Boy was hot so Epic was willing to spend a lot of money on artists and projects. I think Un got carried away with spending the money. Un was operating like a major label with major label overhead, without putting out any music. When you spend millions and only release two albums that barely reached Gold, it doesn't add up. Epic basically dropped every Hip-Hop label they had because of that. Based on label spending back then, you now have everyone running to Koch and other independents.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you and Camron part ways?
Digga: Basically, we had business and creative differences. Cam was going through some things with Un at the time and Cam wanted to do things his way. It made things difficult between me and Cam especially, because I was still working with
other artists on Un's label. I had a production deal with Un and he was cutting my checks. Once Epic dropped Untertainment,
Epic wasn't trying to pay me for the work I was doing with Cam. I was about to have my first child. I had to start selling beats to other artist and I don't think Cam liked that. I ended up doing ten songs on Cam's S.D.E. and getting paid way after the
album was released. After that, we pretty much stopped speaking. Our business relationship messed up our personal relationship, but thing happen. We've known each other since we were seven years old.
AllHipHop.com: You guys were making hit after hit. Today, looking back, is a producers living tough?
Digga: Yeah. Its still difficult. With the new wave of artists and producers coming up, the standards are getting lowered. I can play
tracks for a new artist and they get intimidated because they don't understand the concept of being produced. When they hear
a hot beat, they can't make a hit. They want weaker tracks to make them feel comfortable being on it. That's why there is nothing like working with your home-base artist who understands that. If you look at it, every successful producer has had one main artist they have worked closely with. Swizz had DMX and Ruff Ryders, Just Blaze had Jay-Z, Timberland had Missy, and me and Cam before.
Lil Rob: At first, its a little rough. You expect a lot more [money]. You just gotta keep at it. You gotta save your money. You cant splurge. If you startin out, save them checks you never know. You could drop a song here, and never get placed again, you know.
AllHipHop.com: Digga, you claimed you were a creator in the Diplomats? Why were you cut out, because of Jim Jones, or what?
Digga: Once Cam got with Roc-A-Fella, he had Dame Dash help him make Diplomats a brand. Me and Cam were partners from the beginning, long before Jim ever wanted to be in music. We knew
that we wanted to create a crew before we ever signed with Un. Jimmy actually came up with the name "Diplomats" but I
came up with the vision. I was trying to build us our own studio, buy t-shirt machines, develop the websites. I designed
the logo you see today. The bird with the word going across it was all me. We had t-shirts all over Harlem because we were
marketing ourselves early on. I even remember the day of Juelz audition in the studio and I co-signed him at that time. If
you listen to S.D.E. you'll hear Cam hollering Diplomats.
AllHipHop.com: Rob, has it been difficult, because its been, as you said, three years?
Lil Rob: Its been a little crazy. I been hearing things as to why I havent been getting songs placed. They just rumors. I dont wanna open them up.
AllHipHop.com: Your names been dirtied?
Lil Rob: I dont wanna say. Its been hard. But lately, its been great. I been getting great responses. I been meetin up with a lot of people that want to make this happen.
AllHipHop.com: You said your work is changing. How?
Lil Rob: My work ethic itself has changed. Im starting to make more beats a week than I used to. As far as my sound, I upgraded all of my equipment. All them other songs I did before, I only had an MPC 3000, a sound module, and a keyboard. I got like all kinds of stuff now. Im starting to use live instruments too.
AllHipHop.com: I know you played some instruments on like DJ Clues album. What do you play?
Lil Rob: I play the piano, keyboards, bass guitar, Im starting to learn the guitar. I DJd for Ja when he first started touring. I also started out playing the drums. They my first love.
AllHipHop.com: And you Digga?
Digga: I started out as MC and DJ. I actually got into producing just to make my own beats to rap to. My uncle took me to Teddy Riley's crib in the projects one time and after that, I knew I wanted to create music.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think the arrival of The Blueprint hurt you because the sound of New York Hip-Hop changed so drastically?
Lil Rob: Nah. It didnt help me or hurt me. The sound of Hip-Hop is always changing. With these guys, it was just bringing a new change in Hip-Hop. I met Just Blaze before everybody knew him. He was doing his thing. His style was his style. Same with Kanye. It was a whole different style.
AllHipHop.com: In the last few years, Ja Rule was receiving lots of criticism. I was astonished to see him come back so strong this year. As a producer, how do you look at his work since you guys quit working together?
Lil Rob: I miss workin with the n***a. It is what it is.
AllHipHop.com: Do you see stuff with some artists coming back full circle?
Lil Rob: Yeah. I actually just submitted some stuff for Foxy. Im trying to hook up with her again. Hov, he retired. I cant get back with him [laughs]. If he comes back as Sean Carter or whatever, Im gonna try to holler. A lot of the artists Ive dealt with, theyre not really in the game like that now. I heard that [DMX] might be startin on an album. Im hopefully gonna be a part of that.
AllHipHop.com: Whats popping for you Digga?
Digga: Me and LL Cool J are getting together to do some business. Also be on the lookout for my album called The Cryptogram, check out SixFigga.com.
AllHipHop.com: If Murder Inc is torn apart by the Feds, will that make your life easier? Because I feel like theres a perception that anybody with The Inc, is bad news.
Lil Rob: I hope thats not what people think. As far as it being a break in the sky, I dont think its gonna be a break in the sky. It is what it is. I hope these guys get free from their situation. It is an ill situation. I just hope they get off. I dont know the whole situation, how they get involved. Im just sayin. I was shocked when I found out.
AllHipHop.com: This was nothing you saw coming?
Lil Rob: No. Nothing I saw. I know Irv not to be affiliating himself with drugs or even doing drugs of that nature. All of that stuff that peoples been saying, thats been crazy to me. Thats f**ked up. I wish them cats the best with that.