He is the son of a hip hop legend. His uncle is the embodiment of hip hop culture. His childhood was played out on an MTV reality show. You could say that Diggy Simmons,quite frankly was birthed into the hip hop game. It runs through his veins, but he is setting out to prove that his presence in the music industry is not just another form of nepotism. He’s here for a reason.
This 16-year-old Queens native started out on the grind like most novice hip hop artists by releasing mixtapes to gain an audience and introduce others to his work.
His first mixtape, 2009’s The First Flight was a big hit (it sold over 100,000 downloads) and he followed that up with the more mature sounding Airborne and the old school rap homage Past Presents Future, which was executive produced by DJ Premier.
I have to admit, at first I was one of those naysayers who pessimistically listened to Diggy’s mixtape, thinking it was going to be bunch of bogus rhymes from a suburban kid who did not know how to handle himself on the mic.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I can remember listening to his first mixtape repeatedly to the point where I was memorizing the lyrics and even downloading his songs to my iPod. There is a level of genuine determination and originality in his music that is so refreshing. And his street edge freestyle over Nas’ “Made You Look” further confirmed my opinion that this up -and-coming artist has star power.
Hardcore hustle mentality, clever rhyme schemes and the daily grinds of a young MC are the main themes stamped across the tracks of Diggy’s mixtapes and are fiercely intensified on his new album, Unexpected Arrival.
Released today by Atlantic Records, Unexpected Arrival is the biggest statement Diggy can make in hip hop right now. The album is full of high quality production by Da Internz, Pop & Oak, and D’Mile, and is his global introduction to the rap game.
“Hello World,” the first track off the album is a rock-infused, anthem-like prologue that showcases the MC’s willpower and his ultimate goal to become one of the best hip hop artists alive.
He takes pointers from the best of the best in hip hop and even references his influences throughout the album. On “88” Diggy raps, ” My uncle taught Diddy/ who turned around and taught Biggy/And Biggy taught Jigga/So you can just imagine what he teachin me nigga.”
This bass heavy beat is both club-friendly and reminiscent of the throbbing bass lines that were so popular during hip hop’s golden era in the 1980s.
Another positive note about the album is its diversity both in lyricism and melody. There are the rap ballads with lush synths over 808 drum beats that he made specifically for the ladies. On “I Need To Know” Diggy channels 50 cent’s love rap “21 Questions” where asks a girl if she would stick with him even if fame was not an option.
And on the smooth chaser “Do It Like You” featuring R&B singer Jeremih, Diggy is both rapping and singing to the girl of his dreams. His clever lyricism and suave vocals on this track almost give Drake a run for his money.
What I did not expect to hear on the album is socially conscience music, but he has a track for that as well in the form of “Unforgivable Blackness.” He gives young black men a history course on life and encourages them to stand tall despite the racial and social challenges they may encounter.
It may be a little too early for Diggy to tackle such complex issues in his material; it’s best if he leaves that to rap conscience gurus like Lupe Fiasco.
For now, Diggy should stay on the energetic and determined path, which is where his power remains as a hip hop artist.
Songs like “Glow In The Dark” and “Tom Edison” showcase Diggy at his best in which he is predicting his fame and as well as all the struggles he will face once he hits it big. But, in his case, it’s not the money he’s worried about, its getting respect as an MC.
Diggy definitely has a long way to go before he can truly claim the crown as a powerhouse MC.
Unexpected Arrival is a good debut for an artist who is looking to run the race to become the best.
But the world is watching to see if he will stumble.