You were this close to stopping Diggy Simmons from rapping.
But you ultimately failed in your mission of stopping the 16-year-old son of Joseph (aka Rev Run) and nephew of Russell Simmons from becoming an MC.
Instead, the heir to Run DMC’s legacy is signed to Atlantic Records, prepping his solo studio debut, and launching his Chivalrous Culture clothing line.
At the same time, he is getting co-signs from hip-hop luminaries including Nas, DJ Premier and Jay-Z.
With Diggy in Chicago to perform at Dwyane Wade’s Chicago’s Got Talent Showcase on Saturday, RedEye talked to this young MC about hot topics, including silencing naysayers, lazy rappers and why he isn’t courting big names for cameos.
How is your album coming along?
It’s incredible, almost finished. I’ve been working on it since the top of the year. It’s a really really incredible experience. I’m going into the studio tonight. I just went in last night at 7 p.m. and got out at 6 a.m. this morning. I love it. I push myself and love to just work. I love what I do. I don’t do it for a career or any type of fame or money.
You have talked a lot about not necessarily wanting a lot of big features from other rappers on the album.
My intentions with the album is really to let people have all of me. I don’t want it to be where there are too many people all over it. Then, it becomes something else; it’s not as personable. With your first album, you need to represent yourself really well. Any features I had were added after the fact.
Can you give us a hint as to who will pop up on the album?
[laughing] I want to. I really do, but when you hear it, it’ll be a treat. Yeah, I gotta keep ‘em under wraps. I want to come out and say it, but I got people telling me I can’t do it.
How has being a reality show on “Run’s House” affected your career, in either a good or bad way?
Well, lot of times people say I’ve reached a certain amount of success because of reality TV or my family name. I think that’s false. I think it depends on how much you work. How hard you go and grind daily. That’s how I’ve reached the height I have so far. People are always going to think what they think. People may have seen me a certain wa on TV. So I have to show and prove.
Is there anything you think you can ever do to stop the naysayers who think you use your father’s legacy and money to get signed and have a rap career? Can you ever silence them?
Silence people? All I can do is allow my talent to show through. I got my start like a lot of people. First, I did a mixtape in ’09. I was intentioned on putting myself out there, putting music out there for people that wanted it. I didn’t come out with some single with big promotion behind it. It was me by myself, going and doing a mixtape...and it garnered attention and I am thankful for what it did. It made my label notice me. I wasn’t shopping myself around at labels. They were coming at me, gradually when I was putting music on the Internet.
Does your famous name create unrealistic expectations?
Without a doubt, I always feel like I am carrying the family torch. But you know what? This music is inside of me. I always could do music. I always could rap. I rapped when I was younger, like 5 [years old], all the way up until 9ish and then I stopped. I never knew why I stopped. I realized just recently that I stopped because I just thought what people would say about me. It’s just inside of me, though. I didn’t come in with intentions that I wanted to be a rapper. I was just getting feelings out.
What do you think of current talk about the worst rapper, kicked off by Game who crowned Lil B the worst?
I mean, it shows you how judgmental and like sometimes ignorant hip-hop can be. It’s a beautiful genre and it’s an amazing way to express yourself and for people to relate to each other. You don’t see people doing that with rock. I think [the discussion] has a negative standpoint to it. It is what it is. Anybody out there working hard, I encourage them to keep going.
What if they’re not working hard?
If they’re not working hard, I guess they don’t want it. It’s important for your work ethic to be higher than your talent level. That’s an amazing statement. A person who has more talent and doesn’t work as hard as a person who is less talented, will not get the farthest. If you lay around with incredible voice and talent and don’t use it, that means you don’t want it.
How do you feel being followed by gossip blogs?
Even though artists want to be looked at for their music, at the same time, you know people want all of you in this business. They want to know what you are doing behind the scenes. With me, it is what it is. I tell people just continue to be yourself. I try not to read comments that are written under the stories and even on my music. Every human being wants a compliment and to feel good about themselves. Some people read comments on posts, YouTube and that is something I try to stay away from. At some point, you do that, you’re pretty much looking for a bad comment.
Which other new rappers do you like and want to work with that the general public may not know yet?
Kendrick Lamar, he’s a great rapper out of California. The general public doesn’t really know about him yet, but they will. We became friends off me Tweeting his album was dope...We’ve been friends for about a year. He’s a good guy and incredible artist.
Does any other musical genre aside from hip-hop interest you?
Definitely alternative. I love melody in general. That’s how come my mixtapes and albums have a good feeling and vibe because of the melodies I use. I love alternative music like Maroon 5, Passion Pit, and Arctic Monkeys. It’s a genre I would want to try in the future.
If you didn’t rap, what would you do? And you can’t say fashion. I know you’ve got your fashion line.
[laughing] Wow, you’re a veteran of this journalism thing. Good question. Kudos. Usually, I tell people fashion if they ask me what I’d do besides hip-hop because before I got into rap, I was interested in taking courses in fashion design. I got into hip-hop and that kind of went away. Something I might take up...maybe basketball.