Diggin in the Crates

D.I.T.C. Crew

Much gets overlooked and forgotten about the original D.I.T.C. (Diggin in the Crates) crew.  Mostly underground, the New York-based group consisted of some of the most talented MC’s to ever grace the mic.  Who can forget the multisyllabic expertise and originality of Big L? Or how about the amazingly precise flows of frequently collaborated with Big Pun? And I’m sure all of you know about Fat Joe, the man is still making records.

Whether you swing mainstream or underground, D.I.T.C. held it down for you.  Hip-hop head or casual listener, there was at least one name you knew out of all 8 members.

Maybe the knowledge of the crew aspect of this group has slipped through the cracks because of very few collaboration efforts, putting out only a couple singles.  Their most notable album, the self-titled D.I.T.C. is one of the most oft-underrated group albums of all time.  Besides the fact that it was done after the passing of one of the crucial members (Big L), the album sounds like a Greatest Hits, showing off some of the best verses the headline rappers have to offer.  Take for example the track “Day One”:

Lord Finesse puts it perfectly: “You know the deal/I represent skills”.  A line that fits for anyone else in the clique as well.  Today, I’m gonna break down profiles of each artist, as well as show you my favorite tracks from each.

Big L

Big L

Besides a couple of D.I.T.C. affiliates (Big Pun, KRS-One, Tha Alkoholiks) who are arguably some of the greatest MC’s of all time, Big L stands alone as an incredibly talented lyricist.  Being a talent that passed away too early, nobody knows the full potential of the MC from Harlem.  While he was alive, though, it’s hard to argue with his body of work.  Starting out with none other than Cam’ron, and lesser known Murda Mase and Bloodshed in a group named Children of the Corn (COC), Big L found his way on to the scene on the “Yes You May” remix by Lord Finesse (he also appeared during an ill freestyle segment with Lord Finesse on Yo! MTV Raps to promote Finesse’s album Return of the Funky Man).

After signing to Columbia Records, L then came next with Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous, an album showcasing his ridiculous styles.  Jay-Z even has an appearance, on “Da Graveyard”, flexing his old-school double time styles.  A year later, disputes between Big L and Columbia Records caused him to split.  Then in 1998, he created his own label Flamboyant Entertainment.  The creative process for his album The Big Picture began in 1997, but unfortunately was not released until 2000, a year after Big L’s death in 1999.

One of the greatest questions remain, though, and is a constant source of discussion in my friend circles:

A deal with Roc-A-Fella Records was in the works, after Damon Dash caught notice of the single “Ebonics”.  Big L even has an incredibly impressive 7 minute freestyle with none other than Jay-Z.  With Big L still on the rise, and the golden days of Roc-A-Fella still to come, how would it have changed with L in the lineup? It seems like a mythical combination at this point, but was once a very viable option.

Rap Select: Put it On

Diamond D

Diamond D

The self-proclaimed “best producer on the mic”, Diamond D, has done much over the years.  In D.I.T.C., he played a very important role as one of the lead producers, and founders of the crew.  Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop is widely regarded as one of the best solo LPs from the crew, and also as one of The Source’s greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time.  Handling most of the production on the album himself, it features some of the earliest D.I.T.C. features from Fat Joe and Big L.

Going beyond D.I.T.C., the producer has done notable work for The Fugees, Busta Rhymes, and The Pharcyde just to name a few.  His next album Hatred, Passions, and Infidelity is one of my personal favorites, but was mostly met with mixed reviews.

His sound is consistent with the boom bap stylings of other old-school New York Hip-Hop, keeping simplicity cool.  Plus, his “producer on the mic” declaration is fair enough, I’ve heard some pretty impressive verses.  As far as I know, he could give Pete Rock a run for the title (best producer-MC in my opinion) any day.

Rap Select: When it Pours it Rains

O.C.

O.C.

The man of “Time’s Up” fame made one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums known to man, Word…Life, back in 1994.  The album was mostly produced by another D.I.T.C. member, Buckwild.  The album single-handedly lead him to prominence in the Hip-Hop game.  What makes it even more impressive is how the album was his debut, conquering a feat that few other rappers have done in their career (most notably Nas of Illmatic status).  The album did not go platinum, or make huge waves on the charts (topping off at #34 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts), but still made a huge impact for many of the other artists in the game.

O.C. followed up with his next critically praised album, Jewelz, getting big features from Big L and Organized Konfusion, as well as others.  While this one wasn’t as monumental as his debut, it provided O.C. with his first Billboard Hot 100 singles charting track, “Far From Yours”.

O.C. may not be the most talented MC in the game, but I’d say game-changing is an appropriate way to describe him nonetheless.

Rap Select: Point O Viewz (funny story.  Recognize the intro beat? Hint: it’s the beat for a classic song by Jay-Z)

Lord Finesse

Lord Finesse

Lord Finesse is a throwback in the finest sense of the word.  The man not only founded the D.I.T.C. crew, but also paved the way for producers such as DJ Premier, and D.I.T.C. brethren Diamond D and Showbiz, by collaborating with them on his debut album with Mike Smooth, Funky Technician.  His second project, Return of the Funky Man featured mainly production from Finesse himself, leading him on to become the producer he is today.  Don’t be fooled though, he can still shine on the mic at any time.

The most impressive thing about Funky Technician is that it’s mainly produced by DJ Premier, an East Coast rap marriage that’s plain perfection.  The artists were label mates on Wild Pitch Records between 1987-1990, alongside other names such as Ultramagnetic MC’s, Chill Rob G (of “The Power” fame), and Main Source.  Quite an impressive label lineup if you ask me (Large Professor as part of Main Source adds one more to the list of incredible production acts).

Lord Finesse was destined for bigger things, though.  Forming D.I.T.C. was the main goal shortly after collaborating with Diamond D and Showbiz & AG on Funky Technician, and the rest is history.  Finesse is a legend in his own regard, brushing shoulders with artists like Notorious B.I.G. and Dr. Dre throughout an incredibly long and successful career.

Rap Select: Hip 2 Da Game

Fat Joe

Fat Joe

A lot of casual Hip-Hop listeners probably don’t know about Fat Joe before his Jelaous One’s Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) days.  However, he has always been consistent in the Hip-Hop world; especially in the underground.  Back then, though, he was known as Fat Joe da Gangsta.

His debut album, Represent, made major waves.  The lead single, “Flow Joe” peaked at #1 on the Hot Rap Singles Chart and paved the way for him to become a major contributor to the D.I.T.C. crew.  Although his flow has majorly changed from then to now, Joe has always been nice with the microphone.  Not quite as nice as his close friend Big Pun, but hey not many were.

Fat Joe Big Pun

The two were heavily affiliated, and a large reason as to why Big Pun was such a frequent collaborator with the crew.

Rap Select: Big Apple Gone Rotten

Showbiz & A.G.

Showbiz & AG

Lord Finesse began the careers of Showbiz & A.G., when they collaborated with Finesse on his Funky Technician album They also ended up giving Big L his first ever album appearance, on their track “Represent”.

Their biggest claim to fame is their album Runaway Slave, another included in the list of The Source’s Top 100 Hip-Hop Albums.  A frequent pattern in D.I.T.C. is their knack at making successful debut albums, and Runaway Slave was no exception.  The project stretched the boundaries of production, as well as boasted a talented lyricist in A.G.

Check the 3rd verse on this posthumous Big L track, around the 2:51 mark.

As for Showbiz, he went on to become renowned in the mainstream after producing KRS-One’s mega-hit “Sound of da Police”.  During the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, Showbiz & A.G. were among the best Hip-Hop groups making music.

Rap Select: Soul Clap

Buckwild

Lord Finesse, Buckwild

Many of the greatest Hip-Hop artists in the history of the genre most likely have a beat from Buckwild.  Producing for a hefty load of the greatest East Coast rappers (Kool G Rap, Nas, Jay-Z, AZ, and Brand Nubian to name just a few), he has surely established himself among the greats.  Originally collaborating with O.C. on Word…Life, he began to see his first bit of exposure.  Songs like “Time’s Up” really made his name known across the industry, with many artists clamoring to have a beat from him.

Buckwild continued to produce 7 tracks off 3 major albums the same year, as well as expanding more in 1995 and beyond.

His swing drums and chopped samples fit perfectly with the stylings of Diamond D, Lord Finesse, and Showbiz, creating an all-around cohesive group sound.  It was especially important for O.C., as Buckwild is the main connection between him and the D.I.T.C. squad.

Rap Select: Kool G Rap – Blowin Up in the World

-Ronzo

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