Digga & Lil’ Rob: Beats, Lies, and Life

Some of today’s stars have been a long-time coming. 50 Cent, Cam’ron, 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 […]

Some of today’s stars have been a long-time coming. 50 Cent, Cam’ron, 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 Rule’s first three albums, as well as DMX’s first, Lil’ Rob was a force to be reckoned with. Hype Williams’ nephew was the Inc’s 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 Cam’ron with a sound for his first two albums. From “357” to “Let Me Know,” Digga was Cam’ron’s musical parallel. When Untertainment folded and Cam went to the Roc, things fizzled between the two. Although he’s 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-Hop’s brightest stars.

AllHipHop.com: What’s going on with you right now?

Lil’ Rob: I started up my company, Six Shot Music. I’m 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. I’ve had stuff out three years ago, and music has changed. I’m 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 it’s 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], that’s a good question because I did do a lot of stuff for Def Jam. But I was working through The Inc., so that’s 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 wasn’t always fair with his producers in terms of payment and credit. What would you say?

Lil’ Rob: I’m 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. There’s a few ways to get paid in the game. There’s one thing that I experienced that I didn’t get paid for. I’m not gonna say Irv did me dirty. Overall, he didn’t. In all actuality, he taught me how to use the drum machine I’m using now. He paved a good path for me. I have seen a lot of grease go down with him, but I’m 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, don’t worry about it,” s**t like that. It turned me off. Damn dog, how come I can’t get an answer? I would go out and do some research on things, and I would find out stuff. Okay, the n***a really isn’t 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 didn’t feel comfortable asking questions and not getting all the answers.

AllHipHop.com: Has there ever been stuff that you did with somebody else’s name on it?

Lil’ Rob: Oh no.

AllHipHop.com: Digga, Epic is heavily criticized for its poor handlings of Hip-Hop in the late 90’s. 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 Cam’ron 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 producer’s living tough?

Digga: Yeah. It’s 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, it’s a little rough. You expect a lot more [money]. You just gotta keep at it. You gotta save your money. You can’t 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 it’s been, as you said, three years?

Lil’ Rob: It’s been a little crazy. I been hearing things as to why I haven’t been getting songs placed. They just rumors. I don’t wanna open them up.

AllHipHop.com: Your name’s been dirtied?

Lil’ Rob: I don’t wanna say. It’s been hard. But lately, it’s 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. I’m 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. I’m starting to use live instruments too.

AllHipHop.com: I know you played some instruments on like DJ Clue’s album. What do you play?

Lil’ Rob: I play the piano, keyboards, bass guitar, I’m starting to learn the guitar. I DJ’d 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 didn’t 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. I’m trying to hook up with her again. Hov, he retired. I can’t get back with him [laughs]. If he comes back as Sean Carter or whatever, I’m gonna try to holler. A lot of the artists I’ve dealt with, they’re not really in the game like that now. I heard that [DMX] might be startin’ on an album. I’m hopefully gonna be a part of that.

AllHipHop.com: What’s 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 there’s a perception that anybody with The Inc, is bad news.

Lil’ Rob: I hope that’s not what people think. As far as it being a break in the sky, I don’t think it’s 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 don’t know the whole situation, how they get involved. I’m 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, that’s been crazy to me. That’s f**ked up. I wish them cats the best with that.