La the Darkman: Back for the First Time


ne rapper who seemingly has lived up to his name is La the Darkman. After moving 300,000 units independently on his Heist of the Century debut, La vanished because of personal conflicts. In 1998’s freshmen class, a lot of La’s peers are no longer making music. Quite probably, many of them took day-jobs.

La hasn’t. While mostly unseen and unheard, he has taken on duties with the management side of The Aphiliates – one of the top DJ and production crews in the country – linking Crown Heights with the “A,” in a whole new way.

In honor of his recent immergence on J-Love’s “Return of the Darkman” mixtape, spoke to La about his new enterprises, his past whereabouts, and why he considers himself to a worthy suitor of the next 50 or Jay-Z story. Welcome back. La, you’ve got one tape out now with J-Love. But you’re doing another with DJ Drama and Don Cannon. Tell me why you’re bumping these so close together, and how they’re different?

La the Darkman: They’re two completely different tapes, man. I did the one with J-Love, ‘cause dude is a different type of DJ. He’s hard, and grimy, and to the core, which I am too. On some 2006, my s**t is a little more fly with it [too]. I wanted everybody to know I still do [what I’ve always done]. I’m durable. That J-Love mixtape is the first mixtape I’ve ever done. I thought that. A lot’s happened since 1998. You’ve done features and whatnot. But why are you coming so strong in 2006?

La the Darkman: I been studying. I went through some personal issues – droppin’ the album, dealing with fame – I wasn’t really famous, I was just street credible. I was recognized. I’ve never been on Rap City, never had a commercial. I’m still a new face. Locally and nationwide, I was respected in the street. I caught a couple situations with violence in different states. I went through personal stuff from ’98 to 2003. Then, I had a little legal issue, and got over that. Everything was a learning process. We were independent, and we wanted to be like how Master P and [No Limit] was doin’ it. I grew up. I started makin’ music again in 2003 and 2004. My life comes first. Heist of the Century sold just under 300,000 copies. That’s incredible – and independently.

La the Darkman: Independently! My credentials and my resume links me to be one of the next Diddy or Jay. Sayin’ that means a lot. But I want to put the work in. I want to be nationwide – not a regional thing. Is that why you aligned with The Aphiliates?

La the Darkman: Those are my partners. People startin’ to know about them more. We’re gonna do The Aphiliates Music. Between Atlanta and New York, where’s home now?

La the Darkman: I be back and forth from ATL to Crown Heights, [Brooklyn]. We got two offices. It’s growin’. I do most of the managerial work with [The Aphiliates]. Most often, rappers need a deal, financially, so they’re often at the whim of the label. From what I know, you’re good financially. So how do you go about getting a deal? Is it hard to be wealthy and hungry for a comeback?

La the Darkman: Hell no. First off, it’ll never hurt the music. I am hungry, but I’m not thirsty. I’m hungry like I come from Hungaria, but I’m a businessman, and I’m not gonna take a non-leverage deal. I got the leverage. I’ve got real estate ventures. I did that off the first album. My first deal was for 750 thousand, with Navarre. I did an Atlantic deal before that which was for 450 [thousand dollars]. We took that money, released a buzz record, then went indie. I understood what it meant to be indie. Was it difficult to break away from a major after a big check and one year?

La the Darkman: Not when you got high-powered lawyers. Not when you respected as a man, first. I always wanna make the best music – regardless of if I’m getting one dollar, a million dollars, or nothing at all. I want my music to be bangin’. Let me ask you this then. You did a song with Vanilla Ice and Insane Clown Posse. I understand you spent some time in Michigan, but was “Unbreakable” something you genuinely wanted to do? A lot of people scratch their heads.

La the Darkman: I know they scratch their heads. I did that song in 2002. Nah, I did that song ‘cause it’s a whole ‘nother market. I respected Insane Clown Posse as businessmen, to have a catalog like they have, independently. Vanilla Ice sold 10 million records, had Taco Bell commercials, I wanted to mix the lines. I got paid good too. We was vibin’. I’m a student of this whole thing. I’m tryin’ to be Kobe Bryant in this thing. I got a ring before – 300,000 records. I’m ready to get rings without Shaq now. “Shaq” could be perceived as Wu-Tang Clan. What’s your status like with them now?

La the Darkman: I talked to RZA the other day. I got beats from RZA, I got Meth on a joint. They my brothers. I’m ‘bout to build another clan. We gonna be like Great Britain and America. Love is love. But I’m ready to go score 81 and be second in history to Wilt Chamberlain. The Clan, they always around! I was a teenager when I dropped Heist of the Century, now I’m a grown-ass man. A teenage millionaire. That must’ve been crazy.

La the Darkman: Yeah, yeah. But you gotta know how to control it. You’re a late 90’s rapper trying to make it to the top. That sounds like the 50 Cent story. Why did you choose to put him on the mixtape with “Fast Lane”? That verse was on Guess Who’s Back? so why’d you do it?

La the Darkman: Me and 50 got the same lawyers. They blessed me with that. I got mad respect for them G-Unit n***as. Me and 50 actually did shows and parties together. To come out, go away, then come back out, and do it right – that same story goes for Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, DMX, RZA, and GZA [too]. You’ve been here before. What’s nice about me is – my first record had way more success than any of those people [whom] I just named first records. We recently spoke to Raekwon about this too. New York is really buzzing off of “cocaine rap” right now. You’ve got a new song, “1000 Grams.” Do you think it’s dangerous to show young minds that life?

La the Darkman: It’s dangerous, but it’s reality. My aunt’s 52 years old. She asked me that same question. And she asked, “Is what you sayin’ true?” I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “Do what your heart say do.” I did. It’s reality. It’s like CNN promoting the war – showing the bombs dropping, the buildings exploding – it’s reality. It’s dangerous to show the kids the war, but the war is real. I’m a realist. I’m not an idealist. I combat that song with other songs that tell the children, “Do your math. Do your studies.” Speaking of this, it always amazed me that you wrote, as a teenager, so extensively about love. You had “Lovin’ You,” “A Letter,” or “Love.”

La the Darkman: I’m not a boy or insecure with myself. I don’t have to question what somebody else thinks. That don’t mean nothin’ to me. [laughs] I’m like G.W. Call me La W. Darkman, like G.W. Bush. That’s gangsta ‘cause then I was making “Love,” I got certain criticism too…think I listened to it? I’m everything. I’m the epitome of new rap ‘cause I’m just not cocaine rap, love rap, materialistic rap, spiritual rap – I’m everything that Hip-Hop was made of in the beginning. I’m everything that we need to lead this new generation. You’ve got this joint, “Survive” on the J-Love mixtape. On there, you say, “I do the best thing I know how, ‘cause my life now, is my life as a child.” What does that mean to you?

La the Darkman: Everything to me, bro. That line right there means everything. When I go in the car and I drive by myself, I just drive – sometimes a nice whip, sometimes whatever. I have been able to obtain and elevate every year. I come from poverty. I come from a single-parent. I come from public housing. I come from free cheese. For me to start off with nothin’ but a good-loving mother, and my aunts and uncles, we had love – to see myself now as co-exec of corporations that generate six [million] grossed. I have to thank the Lord. That’s what that means. What’s the timetable like for an album?

La the Darkman: What I’m really goin’ for is new distribution. I want to strengthen my distribution. I had Navarre the first time, which is a computer software company. We still sold 300,000 records with a computer software company with [no knowledge] of Hip-Hop. I’m looking to attach my machine to a stronger machine. I’m right for the time.