[Diamond, Fat Joe, Showbiz, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, A.G. Not pictured: O.C.]

Still Diggin’: An Oral History of D.I.T.C.

How a 30 year friendship in the Bronx, NY manifested into a legendary hip-hop crew


A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory. The Fugees’ The Score. Dr. Dre’s 2001. Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die and Life After Death. Big Pun “Still Not a Player.” Black Rob “Whoa.” Terror Squad “Lean Back.” Check the liner notes, some of the biggest and most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums and songs of all time would not be possible without contributions from a group of largely unsung heroes. Members of an eight man crew — seven in physical form, one in spiritual essence — touched these seminal tracks and albums with dusty fingers from which their namesake is derived: Diggin’ In The Crates or D.I.T.C. for short. They are: Lord Finesse, Diamond D, Showbiz, A.G., Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild and Big L (rest in peace).

Diggin’ In The Crates: O.C., Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, Diamond D, Buckwild, Showbiz, A.G. [Not pictured: Big L]

The aforementioned music projects only scratch the surface of what this team has accomplished in a nearly 30 year career span that found them working with just about every relevant artist of hip-hop’s golden era—from Jay Z to J Dilla, Brand Nubian to the Beastie Boys, Organized Konfusion to Outkast, Pharoahe Monch to The Pharcyde. The list goes on and on and on.

The legacy of D.I.T.C. extends well beyond the work they’ve done for other artists. Albums from their own catalogue, such as Lord Finesse & Mike Smooth’s Funky Technician, Diamond’s Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop, Showbiz & A.G.’s Runaway Slave and O.C.’s Word…Life are revered by hip-hop heads as some of the greatest full-length rap records of all time.

Lord Finesse & Jay Z in 1995

The extent of their reach is not limited to just the golden era of hip-hop either, as Fat Joe continues to make a name for himself in the hip-hop market, with mainstream hit songs like “What’s Luv,” “Lean Back,” “Make It Rain” and his currently skyrocketing club banger “All The Way Up.”

Despite experiencing minor creative differences over the years, old wounds have been mended, as Fat Joe joins the rest of the crew for a brand new 2016 full-length album D.I.T.C. Studios. In tradition, the new album goes against the grain, beats from deep within the crates and radio-unfriendly lyrics. Graciously, the crew assembled to speak with Cuepoint — with the exception of A.G., who was on tour — looking back at a trailblazing career that dates back to the Bronx, NY in the 1980s.


Day One

Before D.I.T.C. would unite as a collective, childhood friendships were formed between Diamond D, Lord Finesse, and Showbiz [aka Show]. The trio would later become the backbone of the group with shared duties as both MCs and producers. Along with Fat Joe, these four young men grew up together in the Bronx, NY’s Forest Houses projects.

Show: Diamond and I met each other doing the electric boogie, popping in the park and all of that. We figured out that we were both DJs, so he started showing me the different record stores. We both DJ’d at each others’ houses. He’d come over to my house early in the morning and we’d DJ. Then we started doing beats, so our relationship grew from the love of music early on, about 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. We grew all the way up doing music together, sharing records, so we had a relationship seven years prior to making a record. He took me around to [hip-hop pioneer] Jazzy Jay’s and things like that.

A pre-D.I.T.C. Showbiz Polaroid photo

[Lord] Finesse also was a good friend of mine, because mind you, we are all from the same neighborhood. Finesse used to run around battling people. The only one I didn’t know in my early years was A.G., because he was from a different neighborhood, not too far from ours. Finesse introduced me to him when he was making the Funky Technician album. [Fat] Joe was also from the neighborhood, I had a friendship with him prior to making records. I used to DJ in the parks, the neighborhood centers. We used to all come out to the jams are participate in them, DJing. We bonded based on the love of music and early hip-hop.

Lord Finesse: For me, I came up with Mike Smooth. Diamond and Show, they were the DJs of the hour. They were my heroes when we were growing up, watching them at jams and block parties and things of that nature.

Fat Joe: I was D.I.T.C. from day one, we all grew up in the same projects. Me and Diamond used to write graffiti together, I used to hang out with Finesse. Finesse always told me he was going to be a rapper. I couldn’t believe it when I heard him on the radio. I might have jumped to the fucking moon, I was like WHAT THE FUCK? [Laughs]

Lord Finesse: Me, Joe, Diamond and Show, we grew up together from childhood. When I say D.I.T.C. crew, the members I just said are literally from the same block.


Ultimate Force

The first member of D.I.T.C. to officially release music was Diamond D, who teamed with rapper Master Rob to form the group Ultimate Force. They released one 12-inch single in 1989 on Strong City Records called “I’m Not Playin’,” propelled by an expertly-freaked sample from Stax Records’ blues guitar royalty Albert King. Produced by Jazzy Jay, it would be the only song released by the duo, despite a shelved 12-track album produced almost entirely by Diamond D. A 2007 unearthing of that LP revealed the earliest known recordings by Fat Joe on “Another Hit” and “Oh, Shit,” respectively. Due to the album being shelved, we wouldn’t hear Joe’s voice for the first time until years later.

Diamond D: When we recorded as the Ultimate Force, there was no Diggin’ In The Crates as a collective. We all knew each other at that point, but that was a song that Master Rob and I had made when we were signed to Strong City Records. That was back in 1988 and 1989.


Funky Technician

D.I.T.C. unofficially stomped onto the scene on February 6th, 1990 with the release of Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth’s Funky Technician LP on Wild Pitch Records. Label mates with Gang Starr — who had released their debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy one year earlier — the album would feature production from DJ Premier and would be the first time that Finesse, Diamond D, Showbiz and A.G. would work collectively on a project together. The album would be revered by many hip-hop heads as one of the greatest of all time.

Lord Finesse: Diamond’s Ultimate Force single was the earliest origins of the group. I came after that with Funky Technician. Me and Mike Smooth were a group, but me knowing that Diamond and Show were incredible with the music, I wanted them on the project. Guru discovered me on Wild Pitch Records and Premier was fresh from Texas at that time. I was like the first person outside Gang Starr that he had worked with. At the same time, Premier was overseeing that whole Funky Technician album. He should have been named the executive producer because he was there for damn near every session and in charge of the vocals. He’s always been my brother, so he is a member of D.I.T.C.

Show: It was just us three: me, Finesse and Diamond at that point, and of course Premier as a producer. But that was the core.

Return of the Funky Man

Unhappy with Wild Pitch Records, Lord Finesse would part ways with both the label and his partner Mike Smooth. After a chance meeting with Ice-T, who was signed with Warner Bros. Records, he would release his first solo album on February 11, 1992 on Warner subsidiary Giant/Reprise. Fellow D.I.T.C. collaborators Showbiz & A.G. and Diamond D would contribute to the project, as would Ice-T producers DJ Aladdin and S.L.J. Through a B-side track from the album, the world be introduced to another crucial member of D.I.T.C., Big L. He was not credited on the label.

Lord Finesse: There wasn’t any money at Wild Pitch. I don’t even want to talk about what my first budget was like.

O.C.: Yeah, I probably got the biggest deal there.

Lord Finesse: I know people that were getting clothing budgets for videos that were more than what I got from Wild Pitch. I bumped into Ice-T at a 1989 seminar and he told me “If you ever need my help or assistance, reach out give me a call.” I was fed up with Wild Pitch. I had a good album out there that everybody was talking about, but I didn’t have a bank account to match it. That’s where Ice-T came in and helped me get a deal with Giant that was through Rhyme Syndicate and Warner Bros. DJ Aladdin did some beats on there, along with S.L.J., Diamond, and Show. Same squad. I told Premier that my biggest regret was not having him there to oversee that album.

Show: Then Finesse met Big L at a record store where they used to sell mixtapes at. He brought L straight to me like “This guy is really good.” He was fire right out the gate. It wasn’t even hard to get into Big L. Mind you, Finesse was in the beginning stages of his career also. He didn’t have enough power to co-sign anyone at that point. But L was so dope with it, that nobody could deny him. But with the labels it was a different game.

Lord Finesse: I was trying to get Big L on “You Know What I’m About” from the Trespass soundtrack and they were shooting down everything I was doing. Warner said no. The Class Act soundtrack with “Set It Off Troop” with Showbiz and I, I wanted verses from Big L and A.G. and Warner said no. I got Big L on the B-side track “Yes You May” and they didn’t knock it because they had to understand that it was dope. But they were shooting me down from every which way.


Diggin’ In The Crates

Five weeks after Lord Finesse dropped his second album, Showbiz & A.G. made their debut with the monumental single “Party Groove / Soul Clap” on March 17th, 1992. Released as an EP, the eight song set would feature a posse cut called “Diggin’ In The Crates,” marking the first time Showbiz, A.G., Diamond and Finesse were referred to as such. This would also be where the term was coined, to be widely adopted in vinyl culture as slang for sample mining or record shopping.

Show: We coined that term “Diggin in the Crates.” That’s what we were doing, that’s how we searched for records. It appeared on the EP — that was the name of the song — and from there it became a way of life for a lot of producers and record collectors.

Lord Finesse: Showbiz & A.G., Diamond D and myself. I would say that that was the entire line-up of D.I.T.C. at that time.

Show: Mind you, I know Q-Tip and them were doing this in the early 80s, but Diamond and I were doing parties with the crates the same way that Bambaataa and them were. We were born where hip-hop was created, so we grew up side-by-side with hip-hop, same with Diamond. Diggin’ In The Crates was a culture for us before we made records. Other people into that culture and mindset, Q-Tip, Premier, everyone else dug for records, because that was a part of the culture. But the term is what we did because that’s what we grew up experiencing.


Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop / Runaway Slave

By fall of 1992, D.I.T.C. would solidify itself as a movement with Showbiz & A.G.’s Runaway Slave LP and Diamond D’s Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop. Released one month apart from each other, August 25th and September 22nd, this pair of arguably perfect albums would go down as benchmarks of the boom-bap, sample-driven golden era sound. Diamond and Showbiz assisted one another in the creation of these records and the crew was becoming more unified. Big L would appear on both projects, while Fat Joe would make his official introduction via Stunts.

DJ Premier and A.G., circa 1990s

Diamond D: I believe Stunts, Blunts and Runaway Slave came out a month or two part, I am not sure. It was random. We were both under Polygram at that time, which is now Universal.

Show: It was a coincidence because we both got our deals around the same time and we both completed the albums around the same time. We helped each other with our albums, it just happened that way. None of this with Diggin’ In the Crates was planned. We didn’t sit down and say this is what’s going to happen.

Fat Joe: You gotta understand that all the stuff that we know now about marketing and promotion, we didn’t even know about back then. Hip-hop itself was in its infancy, developing producers, talent and groups. All the shit that we know to be the norm now, like the way that A$AP Mob or someone does it, we didn’t know that then. It was just forming naturally.


Represent

Fat Joe Da Gangster would make his debut as a solo artist on his 1993 Relativity Records debut, Represent. Backed by the production of Diamond D, Showbiz, and Lord Finesse — along with non-D.I.T.C. producers The Beatnuts and Chilly D — the album would not be as critically lauded as previous D.I.T.C. releases. Despite this, after dropping “Da Gangster” from his name, Fat Joe would later become the D.I.T.C.’s most successful member, with a string of major crossover hit singles, gold and platinum albums, and chart-topping affiliated acts.

Fat Joe: It was my own decision to drop “Da Gangster” from my name because I realized that I couldn’t perform at certain venues, they couldn’t put my record for sale at certain sites, whatever the Wal-Mart equivalent was at the time. So I was like “I’ll drop the gangster and just be Fat Joe.”

Fat Joe, 1994

Show: Joe always wanted to be a star, which is what he is at this moment. No one in Diggin’ really wanted to be that but Joe. So that’s what he is today. He was doing talent shows at the Apollo. He’ll tell you from day one, he always dreamed of doing what he is doing now. We were just into making music, we didn’t even think we were going to get deals. I pressed mine up myself, and Diamond went in producing for another artist and he wound up getting his deal. We didn’t have dreams of being stars, but Joe did what he did, so we all embraced him to help him get to where he wanted to be.


Word…Life

By 1994, D.I.T.C. had established itself in the rap game, as it became expected to see Diamond D remixing just about every popular group in the genre. Everybody was reaching out to them, from K7 to House Of Pain, many times including a bonus rapped verse from “the best producer on the mic” in addition to a crate-dug, boom-bap beat.

O.C., circa 1990s

Meanwhile, after producing Diamond’s B-side track “You Can’t Front,” Buckwild was making a name for himself by lacing budding acts Artifacts, Organized Konfusion and O.C. with production. These albums too would be hailed as some of the best hip-hop records of that year, namely O.C.’s Word…Life, featuring “Time’s Up” a blistering attack on gangster/crossover rap. In two legendary, endlessly quotable verses, O.C. introduced himself to the industry by declaring “Fuck who that I offend…” and “I’d rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect!”

Both O.C. and Buckwild would be inducted as members of D.I.T.C., with Buck’s name preceding the word “remix” on everything from the Beastie Boys’ “Get It Together” to Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch.”

Buckwild: A lot of that came after Diamond’s record and when I did Organized Konfusion and O.C.’s records. I think the first remix I did was for Funkdoobiest. After doing Brand Nubian and Sadat’s records, it became like a whirlwind. Every beat I was doing was a remix for someone. I had Battery Studios locked up. I’d have the “A” room and Q-Tip would be across the way in “K2.” Sometimes I would just pay for the studio time ahead, because I was getting asked for remixes so much. Labels were like “Hey, we need you to do this and we need you to do that.” There was a lot of work just coming.

Show: Buck smashed through the door. He is very sharp and a very good dude and on his game with the music.

Fat Joe: That “Time’s Up” paralyzed the streets. They came to me, like “Yo, we’re thinking about putting O.C. in Diggin’ In The Crates.” And I was like “Fuck yeah! That nigga’s nice! That nigga is on his game!”

O.C.: Joe had me everywhere at that time.


Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous

1995 would see Big L finally make his full-length debut with Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous on Columbia Records. With wall-to-wall D.I.T.C. production, the album would be a fan favorite, hosting pre-fame guest appearances from young Jay Z and Cam’Ron. Like Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. beside him, L would define himself as a street smart lyricist with a devilish tongue. Biggie would in fact be influenced by L’s “M.V.P.” utilizing the same DeBarge “Stay With Me” sample for his smash hit Bad Boy remix of “One More Chance.” Despite the fact that Big L’s Lifestylez… album would not make a significant impact when it was released, it sold over 200,000 copies after his 1999 murder.

Big L and Fat Joe

Also that year, both Fat Joe and Show (dropping the “-biz”) & A.G. released new albums in the form of Jealous One’s Envy and Goodfellas. The former would lay the foundations for Joe’s Terror Squad, with the song “Watch Out” marking the debut of Big Pun and Armageddon. Diamond would be found producing the title track of The Fugees’ massive The Score LP.

Lord Finesse: L wanted an R&B type joint, something commercial. I just thought that DeBarge joint fit him and that he could rock that, which he did.

O.C.: Everybody was digging, but using the same samples and interpreting them differently. If you listen to a Tribe record, they might have used something Diamond used, but they flipped it different. At the end of the day, I think we all influenced each other. That’s why that class, in my mind, is bar none the best class that ever came out in the game.

Show: Puffy took that sample [from Big L’s “M.V.P.”] on purpose. Let’s keep it 100. That’s my opinion. Finesse was one of Puffy’s Hitmen producers. They had a falling out and Finesse went his own way. L is down with D.I.T.C. and Puffy got Biggie and wanted to show it up, like “I can do it better.”

Biggie and Lord Finesse

If you listen to our song “Day One,” Puffy rhymed that too [on Puff Daddy and the Family’s “Young G’s”]. Puffy is cool, I got respect for him, but he’s competitive like that. It ain’t like that was a coincidence. Puff and Big came out with that record that Big L had. The rules back then were that you don’t use something that somebody else just used. So for him to say “Fuck that, I’m going to use it anyway,” shows he was like “I’m going to show these niggas up!” This ain’t on anybody else, this is coming from my mouth. I don’t give a shit, I’m a 100 with it. It is what it is.

Fat Joe: I’ve always been an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. I always wanted to start my own label and sign artists. I used to watch Puff Daddy when he had the smallest chain in the world on and I used to get him into places. Next thing I know, he’s the biggest thing on earth making millions of dollars, so I wanted my own Biggie Smalls. I said, “Yo, we gotta get this fuckin’ money!” So then I put Big Pun and Armageddon on. Armageddon was down with me from day one, behind the scenes. My whole first album, “Represent” we did it up at Jazzy Jay’s studio. Armageddon was like a little kid from around the corner, so he was there all the time.

They always knew when I started Terror Squad where on the family tree it came from. If you look back, Pun was rapping on a lot of Showbiz records, whoever had a records out at the time. To this day, whenever the conversation comes up, I always say that they knew that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for D.I.T.C. That was the model.


Full Scale

As hip-hop became more commercial at the turn of the millennium, the same record labels that a few years earlier were lining the pockets of D.I.T.C. for endless remix and production work were turning a blind eye to them and other like-minded artists. The golden era had abruptly ended, in favor of the more polished sounds coming out of Bad Boy and Death Row Records, who in many cases were recycling the same samples that were trail-blazed by D.I.T.C. and related acts.

Big L, Showbiz & AG in Japan, 1995

This led to the birth of the independent hip-hop movement, which acted as the precursor to the “vinyl revival” witnessed in recent years. Artists began pressing up their own music on vinyl in limited quantities, without the assistance of a larger record company or the worry of digital rips. Artists were independently shipping tens of thousands of copies of their releases with a better return on investment than a record contract.

Distributed by indie chain Fat Beats, the first D.I.T.C. single, “Day One” was released in 1997, which marked the first time that they would officially label a piece of physical product as a group.

Show & A.G. would follow up in 1998 with the Full Scale EP, an incredibly concise five song vinyl EP that showed the duo was far from finished. With several more successful 12-inch vinyl releases following, such as Big L’s monster single “Ebonics,” the movement would culminate in the release of a full-length D.I.T.C. album on Tommy Boy Records in 2000.

Show: Fat Beats was really one of the best eras in my musical career. You could make records the way you wanted to make them and not worry about record companies asking you to follow a certain formula to get a bigger audience. I get it, you put your money into this as a label and you want to get your money back, I get that. Fat Beats? Whatever I wanted to make, I made and brought it to them. I’m still independent to this day because I can never make records to please other people that are not of the culture. I come from the root of the culture. We were only catering to our culture growing up. I could not go and make records that I wouldn’t be happy with.

Full Scale is a reflection of what A.G. wanted to rhyme on; he picked the beats that I made and we put it together. That whole period was a beautiful era where a lot of people were able to make the kind of records that they really wanted to make. It was a dope movement.

Lord Finesse: I think as we grew, we knew a lot of profit was to be made independently. We had been doing that in the mid-90s with Fat Beats. It was different than the way it is now, with everybody saying “I’m independent, I’m independent.” The formula we had saw us getting nice checks each month, maybe anywhere from 10 or 20 thousand off of independent records. Maybe 30 or 40 with “Day One.” At the end of the day, with the royalties on a major label, I wasn’t making as much as I was independently.

Show: All of those singles that we were doing, we took a couple of them and just added onto that for the D.I.T.C. album. Everybody at that time was doing their own thing, all over the place, but we definitely tried to get together to make something happen. We had little issues with attendance, because we didn’t actually make an album the way a traditional album was made. We weren’t a group, we were all individual artists that came together. For example, Wu-Tang came out as a group and went solo, we were all solo and tried to come together to make something happen. It didn’t run as smooth as possible, and I think it could have turned out better, but I appreciate being a part of that whole thing.

Lord Finesse: That’s what turned [Big] L into a monster. After he was released from Sony when they didn’t push him, he had the chance to release whatever records he wanted independently. That started that streak he was on.

Don Cartagena

While D.I.T.C. were seeing independent success as a group with the Fat Beats vinyl singles, Fat Joe had his eyes on a larger prize. The creation of the Terror Squad offshoot proved fruitful, as its premier artist — Big Pun — would be the first Latino rapper go platinum with 1997’s Capital Punishment LP and its radio friendly “Still Not a Player” single. Joe was able to ride this wave, seeing his 1998 Don Cartagena LP go gold. He’d continue to see success as the years went on, with chart-smashing hits such as “What’s Luv” and “Make It Rain” (featuring Lil Wayne) earning platinum plaques to his name. After Pun’s death in 2000, Terror Squad would later win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for the 2004 track “Lean Back.”

Big Pun, 1998

Show: Joe was in Terror Squad at that moment, so that didn’t have a lot to do with us. He came through the gate with us and then did his own thing. We stayed true to what we started out doing, and that’s what we are doing today. Whatever he did after that was on him and his own brand Terror Squad. He was successful doing that and that’s what he wanted to do.

Fat Joe: If I tell you the truth, to me it was all about money. We got Pun to go double-platinum, we started making mad money. I was like “Yo, that’s the route. We gotta start making big records, because now I got this audience that knows me, so I gotta go out there and swing for the fence.” But my art and my love, if you listen to all of those albums like J.O.S.E. and Loyalty, I was thinking boom bap beats. 85% was still “kill everybody” records and 15% was these hits that these girls or these clubs might fuck with so I could go get my money. That’s how that music came out.

The Big Picture

Big L was enjoying success of his cleverly-penned independent vinyl single “Ebonics,” which broke down street slang for the listener over an abrasive, big bodied beat. Rumors swirled that he was being courted by Jay Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, soon to follow in the footsteps of Fat Joe and Big Pun with platinum success in close reach. That stopped abruptly when he was struck with nine bullets in a drive-by shooting on February 15th, 1999 on 45 West 139th Street in Harlem. The murder remains unsolved.

Fat Beats’ Rich King would oversee the completion of L’s final album, The Big Picture, which was released on Rawkus Records on August 1, 2000. Sixty days later, the LP went gold.

Show: That was Rich King mainly, with DJ Premier, but I helped get some of the tracks together and put on the vocals. It was really a dope project. Mike Heron had a hand in that also, I think.

Lord Finesse: We all had a little bit of input into it, but that wasn’t our brainchild, personally. When he passed, the last thing we were thinking of was putting out some Big L records. It wasn’t on our mind like that. We were more taken aback on the loss.

At the time, Big L started releasing his own singles like “Ebonics.” He had about five or six singles lined up before he even got into talks with Jay Z because his goal was to still release his independent singles while negotiating a deal. This way he wouldn’t lose the buzz he had created with “Ebonics.”

Fat Joe: That was smart. That was genius. He was ahead of his time. That’s the shit Pitbull is doing now, but he was doing it back then.

Lord Finesse: That’s why he had all of those songs for The Big Picture, because those were the singles he had lined up for when he was doing his independent thing. I remember sitting in the car with him and he told me which songs were his singles and that he was sitting on a nice stack of money that he had made from his independent singles. I’ll never forget that because I remember thinking “Dang, somebody I brought in the game is asking me if I am all good.” Like “Finesse, you alright? You sure you alright?” He’s showing me his Rolex and telling me about the money he had stashed, the shows he was getting ready to do. For me, it was one of the proudest moments of my career, to be sitting there with somebody I discovered and he’s on the brink of doing something so huge. From me picking him up from school on his half days and taking him to interviews, putting him on my shows with me. Seeing him at that point was the most incredible thing in my career.

Show: L and I were always talking. They said the Roc-A-Fella thing was going to happen, but who knows. L is not here to confirm.

I actually saw L dead on the ground. I was there. I don’t really do too many interviews about this shit here. But I was on my way to Atlantic City for my girl’s birthday — it was her birthday the day he died. We were crossing the bridge from the Bronx to Manhattan and I got a phone call on the bridge saying that L had been killed. I made the turn on the bridge and went right to the block and he was laying there. I can’t really get into details because I had to block it out, but it was just a blur. I just remember where I was at and him lying there. I came fresh, right before his body was even taken or cold or anything. Ten minutes after he was killed, I was right there.

At the time, I was more worried about Pun dying than L. A year prior, the doctor had told us that if Pun didn’t lose weight he was going to die within a year. The doctor was accurate; he died a year later after that. At the time that L died, it didn’t even cross my mind that he was going to die, I was so worried about Pun.


All The Way Up

Fast-forwarding to 2016, each of the members of D.I.T.C. have navigated the changing music industry landscape in different ways, releasing new albums, side projects and compilations to keep their cult fanbase happy. True to form, presently Fat Joe is toasting to success with a massive new club single “All The Way Up” featuring French Montana & Remy Ma, while at the same time contributing to the new D.I.T.C. album D.I.T.C. Studios. The album invites budding new producers that are successfully able to capture the golden era sound through their beats, with the original line-up present on mic duties.

Although getting to this point was not easy, as Show declared D.I.T.C. “a wrap” in a 2011 interview, citing creative differences as the reason that they would no longer record together as a unit.

Show: There were too many egos, too much everything. We never were disrespectful to each other, but at the same time, if everyone doesn’t have the same way of looking at things, it could be a problem. I was always the one trying to get D.I.T.C. to do things. It seemed like it wasn’t going to happen, so I was just frustrated when I said that. Like, I’m not even going to try any more. I felt like it was falling on deaf ears and everybody’s egos was involved.

I guess it started with Fat Joe and I. We weren’t speaking for like eight years. Joe and Finesse weren’t speaking either. Based on that, once Joe and I connected last summer, we all started having talks. We’d go in the room, talk to each other, air out what we were disappointed about or what dudes weren’t on the same page about. We put everybody in a room, aired it out with one-on-one conversations and moved forward. That’s basically what happened. Dudes gotta be men, come to an agreement — or disagreement — and keep it moving, and that’s what we did. It’s like that with most families, you’re going to have disagreements, but if you air them out and say how you feel, you can move forward. Every family goes through these periods.

Fat Joe: Me personally, I don’t think we have creative differences. With me and D.I.T.C., I am a member. I’m not the leader, not the boss, not the head rapper. I play my position. I make requests and throw my flag up like “Yo should we do this?” If I’m counted out, I’m counted out. I was just happy to see my brothers come back and make music together. It’s been a dream of mine — not only of mine — but for the fans. So I always like ‘Yo let’s work,” and Showbiz started throwing beats around like “Alright, you want to do it, let’s do it!” At the end of the day, this is my family, this is my home. This is where I’m from so I’m always proud to work with my brothers. This is where I came from and I could never forget that.

Show: It’s dope that we have a superstar down with our crew, which L would have been also. It’s great that Joe shows up and helps the guys get through the door. It’s a beautiful thing. He’s been making hits since he came through the door, you can’t take anything away from Joe. Twenty some years later and he’s still making hits.

Buckwild: I always felt lyric and production-wise, we were the line-pushers. With the beats you want to look for the top of the line production, where everything is original. I even think that Kanye modeled himself after Diamond, “the best producer on the mic.” Early on, every time I would see an interview, he would be bigging Diamond up.

If you look at the lyricists, A.G., O.C., Finesse, Big L and even Pun, that’s a whole other level. For Joe with his hit making abilities, every time someone tries to count him out, he comes with another hit and knocks ’em down. Every time I walk outside the door, all I hear is “All the Way Up.” After this other one drops with Bryson Tiller, that’s going to be number one as well. I heard it and was like “Oh my god, this nigga has done it again.”

O.C: I told Joe’s ass a few weeks ago, I don’t understand why people don’t mention this cat when they mention the Hov’s and the other hit makers. Fuck you, this dude got just as many hits as everybody else. I don’t see the recognition. I guess he’s like “Fuck it, I’ll still do it.” I just bothers me when people don’t mention the diamonds in the rough that we got in my clan.

I don’t really see another producer / MC group that is fucking with us, period. I don’t care who has platinum or millions of records sold, they’re not even talked about at this stage. Looking at our studio, there’s a million plaques on the wall, you would think as individuals we all went super platinum. At the end of the day there’s nobody really mentioned in the same vein as us, period. We set the blueprint. Nobody is fucking with us, no disrespect to anyone, but that’s just what it is.

Lord Finesse: Everybody talks about we need the real hip-hop, the real beats, the real rhymes, we need lyrics with substance. I think on this project we have all of those things there. I get tired of people complaining, then when the proof is in the pudding, they don’t support it. People saying ‘Can I download it? Can I stream it?’ Like no, support it. Don’t just talk it, support it.

Diamond: We hope to add on to our catalogue and continue the legacy. Dope beats, dope rhymes. Just more of what we’ve been doing.

Fat Joe: What I can say is, with no disrespect to anyone specifically, when you hear other rappers — your favorite rappers — that get to our age. They get rusty and fall off. I’m just glad that everybody sounds better than ever. Everybody is killing this shit, everybody is flowing, everybody is dead nice. It feels really really dope. I play it for young niggas in the studio and they’re like “Daaaaaamn!” That’s major. A lot of our favorite rappers ever started to deteriorate when they got older.

Buckwild: I think the competition fuels us too. After you become a part of a platinum record and you get a taste of one, it becomes repetitious and something that you really want. How many people can say that they are still doing it in 2016 with classic records that are still rocking? Dudes look at us like “I want to be able to do what you do.” It’s very humbling to have a career this long. Most of the hit records I have are still in rotation or are getting licensed.

O.C.: These dudes are special. That don’t die with age when you are talking about us. D.I.T.C. is one of the greatest, man. Ever.


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