Tag Archives: Jack Diggs

Old To The New Q&A – Jack Diggs

South London-raised producer-on-the-mic Jack Diggs has spent the best part of the last decade building a solid reputation for himself as a consistently talented individual, dropping solo efforts such as 2013’s brilliant “Dirty Finger Nails” album, alongside collaborative releases as part of both TPS Fam and Gatecrasherz.

Diggs’ brand of honest, down-to-earth lyricism coupled with his meticulously-crafted, sample-heavy beats have led to the UK representative gaining himself something of a cult following.

Recently, he teamed-up with Harlem, NY’s Revenge Of The Truence duo MuGGz and Tay Dayne to release the “Midnight Run” project. An impressive long-player which finds the two Rotten Apple rhymers sounding right at home over Diggs’ impeccable production.

In this interview, Jack discusses how he came to work with R.O.T, his thoughts on the UK Hip-Hop scene and the pros-and-cons of diggin’ online.

How are you finding lockdown so far?

“I drive a lorry for a living and today is actually my first day in lockdown (note:  this interview was carried out on March 31st). I volunteered to give up work yesterday. So lockdown is sweet so far (laughs). I broke my leg at the end of last year and was off work for four months. I was at home then and I didn’t get bored once. That was actually when I made the R.O.T album during the time that I was off. I had a new-born baby, but when she’d go for a nap, bam, I was on the MPC (laughs).”

So with the talk of lockdown being until May / June, you’ll probably be able to knock out a few albums in that time?

“Yeah (laughs). I reckon so as well.”

The only problem is that you’re not going to be able to go out to any record shops so you’ll have to get involved in some online diggin’ –  if that doesn’t go against the code?

“Nah, there’s not really any code (laughs). If you have to do it you have to do it. But to be honest, I’ve got a load of old records sat here that I’ve been going through. I just moved house, so I’ve been looking through a lot of my records and finding stuff like, ‘What’s that?!’ I always go back through stuff because your mood changes and you can hear different things. I might’ve listened to a particular record a million times, but maybe I didn’t hear something on it straight away, or I might have been feeling lazy when I first played it and didn’t want to go to the trouble of chopping something up (laughs). You always hear different things when you go back and listen to stuff again. When I was working, driving around the city I would always pick stuff up. If I drove past a record shop, I’d run in there and might gets something. But then that record might just sit in my crates for three months because life gets in the way sometimes and I just haven’t had an opportunity to do anything with it. Or I’ll buy something online and it’ll turn up but I just won’t do anything with it straight away. So I do buy stuff online, and, to be honest, there’s no real difference between doing that and actually going diggin’ I suppose.

I can obviously understand why producers  still do want to go out and physically dig because it’s all part of the experience of making music, but as a fan I’m going to judge you based on the quality of the finished product regardless of where  I’m told the samples came from…

“I used to be ‘No, you have to dig in the crates!’ But I’m moving away from that a lot now, as you get busier in life. I mean, I don’t really care, man. If you find a wicked sample and flip it in a really good way, it doesn’t really matter where it came from. The only thing I really have an issue with about the whole digital diggin’ is that there are lazy people out there. Lazy producers who will go online and they’ll search for something to use, and the first thing that comes up they’ll look to do something with it even though it’s already been flipped six million times! I hate that. It just gives life to the lazy digger and waters down the music. But as far as people diggin’ online, I really couldn’t care less, just as long as they’re not flippin’ the same old tired samples. The main thing for me is that you still have to look for stuff that hasn’t been used and be creative with it.”

So how did you connect with NYC’s Revenge Of The Truence? I think they’ve been really consistent with the releases they’ve put out over recent years but they haven’t had much exposure.

“I started going on Instagram a bit and posting up beat videos. Me doing stuff on the MPC and replaying beats. They just hit me up and asked if I had any beats that I might want to send them and that was literally it. It was all online. I knew their name as I’d heard some of their music but I went back to listen to more of their stuff like “International Waters” which I thought was wicked. So I was really gassed, man. I hit them with a bunch of beats and it went from there. Like you said, they’re consistent and their work rate is mad. I’d send them a beat and I’d have something back within a couple of days that I’d then spend time touching up. The whole album was done in about three months. It was wicked and we built a real connection between ourselves actually. I mean, I’ve already given them some beats for our next project.”

Were R.O.T  already familiar with your work before they started checking the videos?

“I think it was literally the Instagram stuff that introduced them to my music. I mean, I don’t think I ever thought to ask them ‘Do you know who I am?’ (laughs). They just heard my beats online and decided to hit me up. That was how it went. There wasn’t much more to it than that.”

How much creative input did you have into what MuGGz and Tay did with the beats after you’d sent them?

“You know what? I’ve worked with people in the past, I’ve sent them a beat and they’ll send you something back with very little input and no opportunity to restructure the beat around what they’ve done. It’s been mastered already but the chorus line is coming in on their last eight bars or something, which can be annoying. But R.O.T weren’t like that. They were really refreshing to work with. They’d record their rhymes over a beat, do a rough draft, send it over to me and then I could give them feedback and if there were any issues with anything we had a chance to talk about it. But to be honest, I pretty much liked everything they were sending me. But I said to them, before they mixed and mastered any of it, send me a rough of every track and then I could structure the beats around what they were doing lyrically. So that’s what they did. I had some ideas about adding music at the end of some of the tracks or using some dialogue and they just let me carry on. There was a lot of mutual respect involved throughout the whole process.”

You sometimes hear stories about producers sending beats to artists and not even knowing they’ve been used until the project comes out. But from what you’ve said, “Midnight Run” sounds like it was a genuine collaboration…

“Yeah man, it was. R.O.T actually came over to London after we’d finished the album. The “Shoot Out” video that just dropped was filmed whilst they were here. I took them around North London and we connected properly. They were actually over here to work with a guy in Birmingham but they went all around the UK to different places trying to get their name out there. It was wicked, man. We had a whole day together and shot three videos. It’s just a shame we didn’t have longer.”

How much awareness did R.O.T have of the UK Hip-Hop scene?

“They knew that there are people out here making music, but I’m not sure how much they knew in terms of the actual scene. They know that there are some bangin’ producers and rappers here in the UK, but in terms of the whole set-up of the so-called UK Hip-Hop scene I don’t think they were overly aware .”

What are your own thoughts on the present-day UK Hip-Hop scene? Do you feel it’s a cohesive, unified scene or do you think it’s too fractured nowadays?

“I love UK Hip-Hop and I’ve loved it for a long time but I don’t follow it that much now, I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s weird because when I came up making music, the UK scene was something that I could actually see. This was before the Internet. But you had your names there and standing outside of it looking in you knew what it was and you knew the make up of it and who was doing what. Now, I don’t really know. I mean, outside of say a label like High Focus I’m not really too aware of what the scene is. It’s just kinda like an infinite streaming platform of videos. It is quite oversaturated with certain people mimicking and duplicating certain sounds. There are definitely still some wicked artists in the UK, but I find myself listening to more on the grime side of things. A lot of UK Hip-Hop now is almost like a cliché of itself.”

With so much now happening online, do you feel the scene isn’t as tangible as it once was?

“When you had to go to the open mics and you had to go to the records shops, it filtered a lot of the s**t out. I mean, when we started going to events like Speakers Corner in Brixton, everyone was going there. That night was legendary to me. If you were jumping into a cipher there you had to be f**king good and if you weren’t good then you’d be told, ‘Nah, you’re s**t, you’ve got to get off the stage.’ It was militant.”

And if you were serious about what you were trying to do, you’d go away, practice, then return again the next week…

“That’s what we did as TPS Fam, me, Big Toast and Strange Neighbour. We used to go to Speakers Corner and loads of different jams all round London. We always had that hunger to just go and spit some bars. I mean, we were fans of the music, but our mentality was always to go to a jam, spit some bars and come harder than we did last time. That’s how we got to know certain people. But when we first started going to those jams we were just seen as those d**kheads who turned up and got pi**ed. But we ended up building relationships with some of those same artists we were trying to prove ourselves to.”

So it was important for you to be putting yourself out there as an artist in order to achieve that organic growth and progression?

“Before, you would get known locally and it would grow from there. Like, going back to Speakers Corner, if you got your name known at a jam like that then people would start listening to your music from that. That’s how quite a lot of people broke through at Speakers doing that. I remember Sonnyjim was a regular there. He’d come down from Birmingham and was in with a lot of the guys there. But now, you don’t really need to start by getting yourself known locally. With the Internet, you don’t really need to be anywhere, you just have to make sure you build an online following. So it almost feels like every artist is their own scene now”

Even though the Internet provides everyone with a platform , I think it still can be a huge struggle for talented UK artists to be heard by potential listeners because even if someone says they’re a UK Hip-Hop fan that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re open to listening to all forms of UK Hip-Hop….

“I fully agree. It’s kinda like on a smaller scale to how pop culture works. It’s almost like ‘Unless you’re being put on by someone I already love, then I don’t care about your music and I’m not interested.’ Some people are just so narrow-minded. If you’re waiting on someone to tell you what’s good and what’s bad, that’s just lame.”

Your 2013 debut album “Dirty Finger Nails” is a personal classic for me. I felt like that album was a genuine snapshot of your life at the time and I came away from the project feeling like I’d gotten to know you as a person…

“I appreciate that. Still to this day I am proud of that album. That’s the one that I probably won’t ever top (laughs).”

How do you feel you grew as an artist between “Dusty Finger Nails” and 2015’s “Blue Rain” album?

“When I listen back to “Blue Rain”, to me, it just sounds like such a frustrated album. I was going through some stuff on that album. With “Dirty Finger Nails” I was young. I had my views and opinions but really I was just going out and living life. With “Blue Rain”, that album was made at a time when I was really going through some s**t. So it’s hard for me to go back and listen to that album without thinking it just sounds like a lot of shouting and frustration (laughs). It just sounds like a real mix of confusion. I think there was just too much going on in my mind at that time.”

In terms of your beats, you definitely have a style but you avoid sounding formulaic. I’ve always thought of your production as being very cinematic and equally effective with or without vocals. There’s often a lot of movement within your tracks, particularly in the way you use string samples. What feeling are you trying to evoke when you’re putting your tracks together?

“I can’t make a beat quickly. Unless I know I’ve got a specific window of time or a number of hours, I’m not going to sit down and start making a beat. I know a lot of people with bash something out in thirty to forty minutes and that’s it done. But I just can’t do that. I mean, I don’t loop stuff, I chop shit. I’ll do like a hundred chops on one sample. So I have to have hours to do what I do. I get lost in it. I will literally sit there for three or four hours making a beat and then I instantly want to starting mixing it down and I’ll add more or I might take stuff out. I mean, a lot of people want beats that are just beats. But I like progression in music. I listen to a lot of jazz and soul, not because I’m looking for samples but because I just enjoy listening to the music. I want to feel something from it and that’s how I approach the music that I make. I get a bit bored with just loops. So when I sit down to make a track it’s about forgetting everything else and just getting lost in it. I don’t want anybody to talk to me. I don’t want anything else to be happening. I just want to sit there and make that beat and I want it to take you somewhere. A sample has to make me feel a certain way for me to be able to use it. Music to me is about connecting emotionally and mentally to something outside of ourselves.”

So do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

“I wrote and produced an eight-track EP a while ago but I didn’t really like it that much so I scrapped it and decided to just focus on the production. So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m working with a few people at the moment, but I don’t want to give away too much as I don’t know if those artists are ready for people to find out about certain projects that we’re working on. But there’s plenty of music there and mainly it’s just production from me at the minute.”

So we could be sitting down to do another interview fairly soon then with all this new music you’re working on?

“You never know, you never know.”

Ryan Proctor

The R.O.T & Jack Diggs album “Midnight Run” is available now at JackDiggs.BandCamp.Com.

 

New Joint – Revenge Of The Truence & Jack Diggs

Revenge Of The Truence & Jack Diggs – “Shootouts” (JackDiggs.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

Having already dropped a handful of quality projects in recent times, NYC duo Revenge Of The Truence deliver the first single to be lifted from their “Midnight Run” album, which pairs their Harlem flavour with the sample-heavy beats of the UK’s talented Jack Diggs.

New Joint – Jah Digga / 2Tone

Jah Digga ft. 2Tone – “Bellyache” (@JahDigga / 2019)

Produced by Jack Diggs.

New Joint – Jack Diggs

Jack Diggs – “Eyes” (@JackDiggs / 2019)

London’s ever-impressive Jack Diggs has teamed-up with producer Django Mankub for a new EP dropping very soon – this piano-laced head-nodder sets high expectations for the remainder of the project.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Two) – Kamanchi Sly / Ocean Wisdom / Westside Gunn etc.

Check Part One here.

K-Sly – “Me And My SP” (KamanchiSly.Com) – Kamanchi Sly is a legend and pioneer of the UK Hip-Hop scene, but the Hijack emcee hasn’t been prepared to simply rest on his laurels, with “Me And My SP” being the London mic vet’s third album in six months at the time of its release in May 2018. A rambunctious mix of true-school attitude, classic breaks and raw rhymes, this release was powered by the undeniable and infectious energy generated by Sly’s unwavering love for the culture of Hip-Hop.

sly cover

Crimeapple & Big Ghost Ltd – “Aguardiente” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the dramatic and ominous production of the mighty Big Ghost (Ankhlejohn, Ghostface Killah etc), New Jersey’s Crimeapple demonstrated throughout this project why he has grown to become one of the most revered rhymers of rap’s new generation, with a sneering confidence in his rugged verses that evoke images of the bearded lyricist holding the mic in one hand and a wack emcee by the scruff of his neck in the other.

Poisonous Diggs – “Volume 84” (IAmKillaKali.BandCamp.Com) – A short-but-effective barrage of fly beats and razor-sharp rhymes from the Gold Chain Music / Poison Ring Regime camp, this collaborative EP from Dirty Diggs and Killa Kali was the type of Hip-Hop that made you screw your face up, adopt an old-school arms-folded b-boy pose  and pledge allegiance to the culture in no uncertain terms.

Big Toast & Jack Diggs – “Call It On” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Opening with the line “I don’t want to listen to your whinging…”, it was clear from the outset that this project from South London blood brothers Toast and Diggs wasn’t about pandering to the masses, with the pair instead offering blunt insight into modern-day life, taking verbal shots at the self-righteous of the world with a heavy dose of  acidic wit and quality self-produced boom-bap beats.

Raashid Aariz – “Knowledge, Wisdom & Understanding” (RaashidAariz19.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia-based producer Raashid Aariz delivered music to meditate to on this refined instrumental project, mixing his love of soul and jazz with the influence of 90s Hip-Hop, ranging from mellow, late-night electric relaxation vibes to sax-heavy, Wu-Tang-sampling workouts.

Ocean Wisdom – “Wizville” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – An artistic triumph in every sense of the term, this sophomore project from Brighton’s Ocean Wisdom confidently blended genres, bridged generation gaps and cracked the Official UK Album Charts in the process (a massive achievement for an independent homegrown Hip-Hop artist). Easily holding his own on tracks with long-established artists such as Rodney P, Method Man and Dizzee Rascal, Wisdom’s clever, rapid-fire rhymes shone throughout. Welcome to Wizville, indeed.

AG – “The Taste Of AMbrosia” (AGofDITC.BandCamp.Com) – Diggin’ In The Crates member Andre The Giant has remained consistent on wax for almost thirty years now, with the NY emcee managing to balance his old-school Bronx rap roots here with a desire to step forward artistically and not simply retread old ground. “The Taste…” was the sound of a legacy artist who is as passionate about his craft today as he was when he first picked a mic up all those years ago.

Philmore Greene – “Chicago: A Third World City” (PhilmoreGreene.BandCamp.Com) – Talented emcee Philmore Greene took listeners on a sonic tour around his Windy City stomping grounds on this captivating, hard-hitting project, tackling the impact of street violence, social conditions and politics on the people of Chicago, with the soulful soundscapes of Rashid Hadee adding further poignancy to the lyricist’s earnest, heartfelt verses.

Royalz – “Live 95” (GrhymeProductions.BandCamp.Com) – As its title suggests, this well-crafted project from Australian producer Royalz wore its 90s influences on its sonic sleeve, with the likes of SmooVth, Conway and Dialect blessing a strong selection of raw-yet-refined beats.

Rome Streetz & Farma Beats – “Street Farmacy” (RomeStreetz.BandCamp.Com) –  This transatlantic collaboration from NY emcee Rome Streetz and London producer Farma Beats supplied Hip-Hop fiends with plenty of that uncut dope, as grimy, project-building poetry was laid over an eclectic collection of samples and loops.

Dabbla – “Death Moves” (PotentFunkRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Another blazing display of rhyming agility from Dabbla, this follow-up to 2016’s “Year Of The Monkey” album further cemented the UK emcee’s reputation as a naturally gifted talent, with the Problem Child member putting a lyrical leash on a wide-ranging selection of beats, from futuristic, bass-heavy wave twisters to straight-up, sample-based head-nodders.

Westside Gunn – “Supreme Blientele” (Grisleda / Daupe.BandCamp.Com) – The Griselda Records family continued to stamp their dominance on the rap game throughout 2018, with this immediate cult classic from Gunn just one of a handful of quality releases from the camp over the past twelve months. Backed by heavy-hitting producers such as Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Alchemist and (of course) frequent collaborator Daringer, WG masterfully utilised his distinctive delivery to offer more of his captivating insight and perspective on both the street life and the rap game.

Napoleon Da Legend & Giallo Point – “Coup D’Etat” (FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – It’s always good to hear a full project from an emcee and producer who are truly on the same page creatively. This release from NYC’s NDL and the UK’s Giallo Point definitely hit that mark. Clever, intricate, street-savvy rhymes were coupled here with smooth, atmospheric production, resulting in an album that sounded both familiar and individual at the same time.

K Zorro – “Winnie’s Passion / Bernard’s Legacy” (NewGuardzOnline.BandCamp.Com) – With so much of today’s popular culture dominated by image, hype and empty posturing, it’s always refreshing to hear music from an artist who appears determined to genuinely let the listener into their world, capturing life’s struggles, hopes and regrets along the way. Enter London-based emcee K Zorro with this well-crafted album, which found the New Guardz member getting up-close-and-personal as he spilt his soul over the fourteen tracks on offer here.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “Roman Abramovich” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Possessing a moniker that truly captures his lyrical approach, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan effortlessly elbowed his way through the stripped-down-yet-sublime production of D’Lux Beats on this short-but-satisfying EP. Offering both style and substance, DFH once again proved himself to be a formidable force in the microphone booth.

IceRocks – “Live From The Bunker” (IceRocksDXA.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his 2016 instrumental project “Bunker Beats”, DXA producer IceRocks once again showcased his dope brand of NY boom-bap throughout this album, adding some talented lyricists into the mix this time around, with the likes of AG Da Coroner, Meyhem Lauren and Spit Gemz lending lyrical support. A project best listened to whilst wearing Timberlands and a hoodie.

C.A.M – “Persian Rugs” (CAMOfficial.BandCamp.Com) – The London-based emcee followed-up his impressive 2017 EP “The First Move” with this second collection of sharp, intelligent lyricism superbly produced by Hashfinger. Combining a quick-fire delivery with an attention-grabbing vocal tone able to penetrate a beat like a razor-blade through rice paper , C.A.M’s latest project was immediately captivating, demanding to be revisited again and again.

King Draft – “Two Eyes” (KingDraftMusic.BandCamp.Com) – As both a member of The Kingdom and a solo artist in his own right, King Draft has been on my radar since 2014. The talented North Carolina-based artist added to his already impressive catalogue with this ambitious release, an eclectic blend of organic live instrumentation and concept-driven lyricism.

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim – “Spencer For Hire” (Eat Good Records / GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Vic Spencer joined forces with the UK’s Sonnyjim to drop this smoothed-out selection of lo-fi liveness, featuring Quelle Chris, Hus Kingpin and Chris Crack. Spencer’s swaggering, self-assured steez meshed perfectly with Sonnyjim’s supreme stash of soundtrack-style loops.

EvillDewer – “Apocrypha” (EvillDewer.BandCamp.Com) – Boston-based producer and self-proclaimed Crown Chakra Rocka EvillDewer showcased his musical imagination on this instrumental project, steering clear of typical boom-bap beats and pushing his creative boundaries, drawing the listener deep into an intricately-crafted collection of inspired, sample-driven soundscapes.

Part Three coming soon,

New Joint – Big Toast & Jack Diggs

Big Toast & Jack Diggs – “Pow!” (@RevorgRecords / 2018)

Direct, straight-to-the-point UK flavour from the London-based pair’s brilliant new album “Call It On”.

New Joint – Jack Diggs & Big Toast

Jack Diggs & Big Toast – “Nocturnal” (@RevorgRecords / 2018)

Late-night vibes from the UK duo’s forthcoming album “Call It On” dropping March 30th.