It’s not easy being a Simmons. Just ask Daniel Dwayne, better known to the entertainment and music industries as "Diggy." Hot on the heels of a major label signing with Atlantic Records, 16-year-old New York rapper Diggy has been working day and night to stay in the public eye and, more specifically, to stay tied to the fans he hopes will support his debut release later this year. He has spent countless hours on the road touring all while putting the finishing touches on his untitled debut.
The legacy and history of the Simmons family is synonymous with Hip-Hop, which makes these recent moments all the more meaningful and special for Diggy. He has no time for the haters, of which he has many, as a new artist and a Simmons. He radiates honesty, realness, and humility, and he doesn't seem to be trying to be someone or something he's not. According to him, Diggy is Diggy, and that is what everyone needs to know about the teenage rapper.
AllHipHop.com got a chance to talk to Diggy in the New York offices of Atlantic Records last week about his thoughts on the BET Hip-Hop Awards, what it means to be a “Simmons,” and the pressure, if there is any, to fill the shoes of his legendary family. He also set the bar high for his upcoming album - read more here:
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on? How you feeling, Diggy?
Diggy Simmons: I’m good, man.
AllHipHop.com: First things first, unfortunately you didn’t win but congratulations on your nomination for "Rookie of the Year" at the BET Hip-Hop Awards! Can you tell me a little bit about your experience at the awards show this year?
Diggy Simmons: I actually wasn’t there this year. I was on tour. I’m on the "Scream Tour" right now, so I was in Alabama that night.
AllHipHop.com: Did you get a chance to check them out on TV or at least check out the cyphers online?
Diggy Simmons: Yeah, I saw the cyphers online, and I caught a little bit of the show like the Heavy D performance and the Tyrese thing and stuff like that. I didn’t see too much of it, but I did watch all the cyphers.
AllHipHop.com: So, which one was your favorite or who had some of your favorite verses from all of them?
Diggy Simmons: Shady 2.0, for sure. I mean, who didn’t love that? Kendrick is my homie. Kendrick killed it. Machine Gun Kelly killed it. K.R.I.T. killed it. That whole cypher was dope. Tech N9ne, of course, Tyga, Chris Brown, a lot of people did their thing.
AllHipHop.com: Should we expect Diggy Simmons in a 2012 BET Awards cypher?
Diggy Simmons: Hopefully. I did it last year, which was really dope, and I had fun. I always wanted to be in the cypher so when I got the call, I was bouncing off the walls. I’d love to do it again.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been riding high on the success of the Scream Tour lately, and a recent concert reviewer wrote that you “perfectly straddle the line between teen idol and legitimate rapper.” What do you think about that critique?
Diggy Simmons: That’s an incredible feeling right there. I mean, that’ s just flattering of course. I saw that, too, in the Washington Post, and it felt good especially because it’s such a highly respected publication.
AllHipHop.com: Well, you are Diggy Simmons, keyword 'Simmons,' which has a long history and strong legacy tied to the name. So I’d like to know, are you ready for the challenge and pressures of carrying on that legacy in the future?
Diggy Simmons: No pressures, honestly, because I just do me, of course. So I’m just going in and making my music and doing what makes me happy.
AllHipHop.com: I’m sure your father and uncle are both huge mentors to you. Who do you find yourself speaking more to about the whole music industry, the ins and outs, and questions about the business? Who do you go to first?
Diggy Simmons: I mean, if I ever need any sort of advice or questions about what to do with anything, I go straight to my management, Chris Lighty and Laurie Dobbins, and that’s really it. Sometimes, there will be certain things that I think of and take into my own hands, but if there’s anything else than it’ll be them.
AllHipHop.com: I got you. I remember from watching Run’s House that JoJo was always the one with the aspirations to be a rapper, and your sisters were taking the fashion world by storm, while you always had this mini-entrepreneurial glow and swagger to you. Did you always want to be a rapper, or was that a result of the show’s success?
Diggy Simmons: No, not at all. I wasn’t staying away from it, I was just doing it on my own. My dad didn’t even know that I was going to put out a mixtape, which came out in December of ’09. That’s what I always wanted to do. I just wanted to take it into my own hands, 'cause I was confident that I could make it by myself and let my music speak for itself, besides for my last name and that legacy that people know of. That’s really just how I went about it.
AllHipHop.com: Any plans to step back in front of the camera sometime soon, maybe a Run’s House spinoff starring Diggy?
Diggy Simmons: Not right now but in the future, acting is something that I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to. Right now though, music is the only thing that I’m focused on.
AllHipHop.com: Everyone has haters, and of course you’re subject to them too. From those that don’t even listen to your music and just want to say negative things about you being signed because of who your family is, or that you can’t rap, etc. Other than telling them to “listen,” what do you have to say to the haters?
Diggy Simmons: You know, just don’t be skeptical before you don’t even know. Of course I’ve shown and proved already and I’m just going to keep doing that, that’s what my album is going to be. I feel that my album is so much better than what I’ve done before, I just feel that I’m going to convert a lot of people that don’t believe or don’t like the music or haven’t even heard me yet. There’s people that don’t know about what I did before my first single “Copy, Paste” so they’ll just judge off of that. That’s just more of a fun, party song. Everybody has stuff like that. So, it is what it is, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing, just showing and proving.
AllHipHop.com: Speaking of the album, you said recently, “I want my debut album to be a classic, not even Hip-Hop album, but album in general – one of those albums that people love, and that’s what it feels like.” Other than it being your own body of work, what about your album screams “classic” to you?
Diggy Simmons: I think as a debut album I’m definitely confident that it’ll be looked at as a classic. People may not believe or know it now, but I can’t wait for it to speak for itself. It’s definitely going to go over people’s heads just how incredible it is.
AllHipHop.com: Have you looked at or studied some other praised debut’s from Drake with Thank Me Later and J. Cole with Cole World: The Sideline Story to help mold your own to a degree?
Diggy Simmons: Yeah, I definitely did that. People have taken different formulas to get to their first album or to garner a certain type of buzz or attention, and I definitely looked at those different things. But, different things have also worked for me cause your path is your path, and that’s what it’s all about. You have to know who you are and what works for you.
AllHipHop.com: So, what can you tell me about your debut album? Is it still set for a release before the end of the year?
Diggy Simmons: December or, you know, early next year. It’s almost done. I’m on tour right now so as soon as that wraps, it’s just about me going in and brushing up certain things, but it’s basically finished.
AllHipHop.com: How about some of the producers you have on there?
Diggy Simmons: Pop and Oak. Of course, they produced “Copy, Paste,” but they have more than one track on the album, I think they have like three. I think that their production on my album alone is going to do something great for them, and that’s what I want to do. I have another great producer on my album, D. Mile, and I feel as though his sound is going to be really big and people are going to enjoy it.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have plans already for a second single, or is your team still working “Copy, Paste?”
Diggy Simmons: We’re still going to let “Copy, Paste” do its thing. My second single, however, is going to be coming out in a few days, so I’m very excited.
AllHipHop.com: So I have to ask, Diggy, what is up with the All City Chess Club?
Diggy Simmons: [laughter] All City Chess Club? You have to ask Lupe about that. That is definitely an honor, and when he wanted me to be a part of it, I said yes in 1.5 seconds.
AllHipHop.com: As a man looking ahead to the future who is just starting a career as an artist, what do you want people to say about Diggy Simmons in 10 years?
Diggy Simmons: In 10 years? That I was innovative, that I inspired people to be different and be themselves, and also helped create a lot of different trends and styles as far as flows and sounds - a lot of different things like that. I just want people to enjoy my music and be able to relate to it, and for it to be timeless and classic.
AllHipHop.com: You’re definitely a very interesting breed of artist. You seem to be setting yourself apart by not wanting to ride the coattails of your family. You’re proud to be doing your own thing, so do you think that being a Simmons is a blessing or curse in terms of carving your own lane?
Diggy Simmons: It’s certainly not challenging at all, because I never wanted to use my dad’s name to get to where I had to be. As far as it being a gift, I wouldn’t mind my dad not being who he is, or my uncle having his legacy that he’s had, and both of their successes, I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t there. Me having to work from the bottom up, which I have done as much as I could is great. So being the fact that it is there and a part of my life, it’s not my fault. I was born into what I was born into, and who says that the son can’t do it after his dad did it? It’s all from me. I do it cause I love it and I’m dedicated, and I work hard every single day, more than people even know.
AllHipHop.com: That is very true. This past year you were named one of XXL’s 2011 Freshman Class members, where history has shown that half of the artists featured on that cover tend to not really make it like people think they will. This year we have Big K.R.I.T., Mac Miller, Yelawolf, and Kendrick Lamar all doing their thing and blowing up. You seem to be next in line. What did being a part of that mean to you, especially now that you get to see your peers succeed, too?
Diggy Simmons: That was a HUGE honor. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the XXL Freshman List so when I got that call, I went crazy. Who doesn’t want to be on that list when you’re a brand new Hip-Hop artist? That was definitely a big deal to me, and I’m happy for everybody on that cover. A lot of those dudes are my homies, so I’m happy for them, very happy for them.
AllHipHop.com: In a friendly sense, who do you think your biggest competition was out of the other freshman?
Diggy Simmons: I don’t know, I feel like everybody has certain things about them that are different from everybody else, so I feel as though everybody is my competition for different reasons
AllHipHop.com: Since you’re signed to Atlantic Records and have seen the enormous success that their artists like B.O.B., Lupe Fiasco, and Wiz Khalifa have had, what does it mean to you to be the next batter up at Atlantic?
Diggy Simmons: It means a lot. Honestly, even past what those artists did, Atlantic is just an incredible label and being next up for them in any genre that they have means a lot. Just having the whole label behind me and having my back and believing in me and putting there all into my project, it means a whole lot. I’m just excited for what’s to come in the future.
AllHipHop.com: So, what does Diggy Simmons have in store for 2012?
Diggy Simmons: My tour. Of course, [I'm] going to be celebrating the release of my album, and a whole lot more, a whole lot more. Just stay tuned.
For more on Diggy Simmons, check out www.DiggysWorld.com