Growing up in Forest Projects in the South Bronx, DJ Diamond D embarked on a career as a local DJ before teaming-up with childhood friend Master Rob to form the Ultimate Force crew and release the “I’m Not Playing” single on Strong City. Following on from yesterdays detailed breakdown of his first solo album, we discussed his formative years as a music fan, his loyalty to those he grew-up with and some of his lesser known musical contributions beyond his work with the D.I.T.C. crew.
Robbie: How old were you when you first deejayed publicly?
Diamond D: First time I deejayed in public I was around 13, 14 in my projects at the jams outside. There were two DJ’s in my neighborhood – DJ Supreme and DJ Hutch. They would come outside and basically provide the soundtrack to our lives, through hip-hop. At some point, from me pestering them, they let me get on their set. To me that was the biggest deal, to be able to get on the turntables in your projects and feel the love of the people that were in the projects, basically.
Were you already Diamond D back then?
Yeah. I got my name Diamond D cos there was an MC named Diamond D – my man David. Back in the day you could have the same name as someone else, as long as y’all did different things. It could be DJ Blahzay Blah and MC Blazay Blah, but one’s a DJ and one’s an MC and it was never no beef. So I became DJ Diamond D.
How did you first begin to work with Master Rob?
Me and Master Rob lived in the same building, in the projects in the South Bronx. We were childhood friends, and growing up were heavily into hip-hop, it was constantly around us.
Why didn’t the Ultimate Force album get released after the “I’m Not Playin’” single on Strong City?
For two reasons. Number one – Strong City Records lost it’s distribution deal with MCA by the time our album came around – and number two, the owner of the label, Rocky Bucano, didn’t like it. It’s more of the first reason. Jazzy Jay loved the album, because Jay is the one who signed us. The Ultimate Force was more or less Jay’s group; Rocky was in charge of Ice Cream Tee and Nu-Sounds and Don Baron and all of that.
So you tried to take the album to another label?
That’s correct, I was shopping Ultimate Force’s project. Capitol Records was interested, but I asked for one or two stipulations and they wouldn’t do it, so a couple of months later I wind up going to Chemistry Records. I had recorded “Best Kept Secret” as a pet project, to see what happens. When Chemistry heard “Best Kept Secret” and two other demos they offered me a deal.
Can you break down the roles of the Psychotic Neurotics?
Psychotic Neurotics was DJ KX and my two dancers, Whiz-One and Sha-Eaze. In the early 90′s – Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap – everybody had dancers. That was in-vogue back then, so I had dancers!
Am I correct in assuming you’re a huge James Brown fan?
Indeed! My uncle Gary used to play James Brown. I’m a little kid and he used to babysit me. He wouldn’t let me come into his bedroom all the time, but when he did? Man! I must’ve been about nine years old, but when he let me in his room where he had all his equipment at and his records, I used to just sit there and listen and listen. He was a big James Brown fan and that’s where my first love for that man came from.
It sounds like you went through a lot in your life by the time you recorded your second album.
When I made my first album I was in a different space. By the time I made my second album, the climate of the music changed, and I had changed also. A lotta people like that album, but I know most people like my first album more – and I’m cool with that. But people change, everybody has different life experiences. My first album, you’ve got motherfuckers cracking jokes on the skits – my second album didn’t really have no skits. By ‘98, skits were passe. The landscape had changed somewhat. My second album was definitely more serious and not so much joking, but I still had some songs on there where I still had some fun, like “Gather Round.”
What can you tell me about putting Fat Joe’s debut together?
We’re all from the same projects, so Joe lived across the street. The first time anyone ever heard of Joe was on “Pass Dat Shit,” so I was already working with him. When he got his deal, Chris Lighty – my former manager, rest in peace – he’s the one who offered Joe a deal. It took us about six months to make that album. I’m proud of Joe, he’s still doing his thing at a level where’s he’s still relevant, which is no easy feat twenty years in the game.
You were also the first person to do a new flip on “Apache” way before Salaam Remi did “Made You Look”…
Thanks for that observation.
You got a lot of shine for your work with the Fu-Gees.
I don’t want to talk about the Fu-Gees project. I won a Grammy for it, but other than that it’s just a bad memory. It’s water under the bridge, we did what we did. Shouts out to Lauren Hill.
What can you tell me about John Dough from your later albums?
John Dough, another dude from my projects, he had just came home from doing some time and I liked his flow so I started working with him. He was one of Fat Joe’s hypemen first, people don’t know that. He makes beats now – Gwop Sullivan. Blake Carrington is one of my boys. originally from Ohio, he moved to New York early 90′s and we got a project that we’re doing right now called The Blake Moses Project. We got some real nice hip-hop/soul stuff coming.
What about Big Red?
Big Red was from The Bronx, up by White Plains road. White dude.
With red hair?
That’s right! And would knock dudes out! You know how some white people grow up around black people and they think they’re black? And you view them as such because they’ve been around you much? He was one of those white people. There wasn’t no frontin’ about it.
You had a period where you were doing a lot of cameos all over the place.
They were riding the Diamond wave. When you’re hot, everybody wanna fuck with you! [laughs]
What are Show and those guys up to right now?
I do know that Show is doing a Diggin’ In The Crates remix project where he’s remixing the album with different producers – Apollo Brown, OGee, Large Professor, I did one – that’s dropping this year.
What was your best memory of Big L?
When Big L came out to my house and just hung out, cracked jokes. He did a graffiti tag on the wall in my basement, and about a month later he was dead.
What was the story behind that “I Can’t Take No More” song on the Class A Felony CD?
We recorded that right after he was killed. Back then, conscious hip-hop was more acceptable than it is now. You do it now, people say, “Turn that shit off!” It’s sad, but it is what it is.
Another favorite of mine was “I Got Planz” with Scientifik.
Scientifik – rest in peace. I met Scientifik through Ed OG & Da BULLDOGS, they were all from the Boston area. I did “Love Comes And Goes” for Ed OG.
What do you have planned for your next release?
The new album is called The Diam Piece. The first single is “Rap Life” by Pharoahe Monch. A lotta features – Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, Elzhi from Slum Village, Black Rob. It took me about two years to make this album, I’m looking for an April release.