Volume 2: Soulman vs Diamond D|
Battle of the Beats / Diamond Speaks on the Business
Unreleased Exclusive! This includes the first part of the Diamond D Interview,
which was not included in the Rap Sheet article.
Ay yo, peep this. Just the other day I was on the phone talking with hip-hop producer extraordinaire Diamond... You know, the best kept secret, the chubby kid from 165th street, niggas call him Jo Jo...yeah, you know who I'm talkin' about. Well, it was just your typical writer-grills-artist type of interview, with me trying to get as much inside info from Diamond about his experiences in the business as I could. Then we got on the subject of beats and what had been a routine Q and A session suddenly became a tennis match, with both me and Diamond throwing beats from our collections back and forth at each other. Diamond tested my knowledge relentlessly, while I was determined to try to stump him with at least ONE beat that he wasn't up on. And it went a little somethin' like this...
Soulman: Who are you working on now?
Diamond: Red Hot Lover Tone, ADOR, Slick Rick, kool G. Rap.
S: Are you still with Mercury?
D: I'm supposed to start on a new album. I'm just tryin' to renegotiate some stuff in my contract.
S: A while ago I heard you say you wouldn't be recording for them any more.
D: Yeah, well, you know how that go. I was probably stressed out that night. I just didn't feel that (the last album) was promoted like it shoulda’ been. But that's how it go.
I also did Ed O.G.'s new single "Love Comes And Goes".
S: What kind of equipment do you use when you do a track?
D: Well, l use two Akai 950's and an Alesis HR16. I use that to sequence it. That's the basics of what I use. From there I just go into the studio with my disc and some records. Sometimes I use an SP12OO.
S: Is all the preproduction done at home?
D: Yeah, I do everything in my house. I just moved.
S: You still in the Bronx?
D: I stay up in Riverdale.
S: For a kid who's making beats and trying to get on but doesn't know how to go about it, what would you suggest?
D: Try to hit as many A&R men as possible with tracks. Don't go in there expecting to get five thousand a track off the top. You gotta’ crawl before you walk. It's all based on track record. Most A&R men want to know what have you done. If you're a new producer they don't want to give you the break, but somebody has to give you the break.
S: How much can first time producers expect to receive for a track?
D: It can vary. A thousand... some labels might even give a brother five hundred. It all depends.
S: That's just up front money?
D: It's up front money, and it's held against your royalties. The first thing I did was four cuts on Lord Finesse's first album "Funky Technician" in '89. Stu Fine gave me like five hundred a track. I was more than happy
to get that shit.
S: Does the label always pay you for tracks, or does the artist pay you themselves sometimes?
D: Most of the times it comes out of the recording budget. If your budget is fifty thousand up to one hundred thousand or whatever it is, a portion of that would come out to pay your producer. There's two ways a producer can get paid. One is called an "all-in". That means you get a set budget and you have to pay for studio costs. Or you can just get a producer's fee. I like gettin' a producer's fee, 'cause some rappers will come there and try to write the rhyme in the session. A whole day can go by and he's in there writin' rhymes and you gotta pay for that shit. There's two ways to do it. If it's a remix I’ll do an all-in 'cause the vocals are already done.
S: Let's talk about sampling. Do you clear everything?
D: If it's noticeable and if it's not chopped or altered then you have to clear it. This can cost anywhere from one thousand to three thousand to five thousand depending on which artist. Some artists don't mind, of course, and some do. But a lot of artists are starting to open up now 'cause it's a way for them to still accumulate some type of income.
S: What kind of money do some of the big names charge?
D: Bohannon charges a lot. He wants like three to five (thousand). He had a good year. And of course Roger Troutman of Zapp... the main heavyweights, a lot of them don't mind, they just want to be notified ahead of time.
S: Is it true that they charge a rapper more for a short sample than they will an R&B singer who remakes their entire song?
D: They feel that all we're doing is taking something. That might be true and all, but a lot of rap records are made from samples that are altered and you can't even tell. You have to be creative. You have to be able to take a horn and flip it another way, it's not just taking from a record. A lot of them probably look down on producers who sample like, "oh, they just sampling". But nine out of ten, none of them would be able to do it.
S: Does the cost of the samples come out of the producer's money?
D: Again, that's all in the producer's contract with the label or with the artist. You can get an all-in where you pay for samples or you can just get your fee and pay for studio time, or just your fee. With me, this year I'm gonna start clearing the samples on my own. It comes out cheaper. 'Cause if a label clears a sample, they give up your part of the publishing to the people own the sample. If I clear it, I'll just clear the whole shit and the balance'll just be split.
-- [Original Follows From Here] --
S: Who are your favorite artists to sample from?
D: I'll give you the basics, right? The Meters, James Brown...
S: Come on let's get a little deeper, man.
D: Uuh, The Platters...naw, just kidding! There's a group called Rasputin's
Stash, they got a couple of jonts. There's a joint I'm getting ready to
use on my album called Universal Jones. It's a group that Gene McDaniels
was a part of. Then you got The Sons...yo, it's mad stuff out there. You
just have to know your funk groups. The bass player for Sly and the Family
Stone was Larry Graham. He branched off and started Graham Central Station.
A lot of times you can find out names just by finding out where the players
S: Where do you get your beats from? Do you buy records that you know
have beats, or do you just take a chance on something?
D: It's mixed. I have a list and I can pretty much look at a record
and see what time period it was made in, and then judge what kind of sounds
are on it. Whenever I go out of state to do a track, I always hit old record
stores. New Orleans is a good place for beats...cheaper than New York.
S: Yo, I don't even buy shits in New York anymore. I get a lot of shit
in the mail.
D: You get Lonnie Smith?
S: "Drives"? Yeah, that's up on my wall right now.
D: I just threw that at you.
S: Oh, I got some beats, kid. I got about 3,000 records up in here.
D: What's the fliest drums you have?
S: I don't know about the fliest. Let's see, you got the Jeff Beck "Wired"
D: Come on, man.
S: Alright, alright [I have to make it harder on this brother]. Spooky
Tooth, you ever heard of that?
D: Yeah, I got that.
S: Damn, let me get my book. I'm gonna stump you with one of these. You
got Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson?
D: What label is that on?
S: I forget, it's some independent label. The song is "Ain't No
D: I've never heard of it before.
S: Yeah. [Ha, one he doesn't have!]
D: You got Deep Purple?
S: Nah. You got anything by Sandy Nelson?
D: Of course. What a beat.
S: Yeah, "Mystery Boogaloo".
S: How about The Landlord soundtrack?
D: By Al Kooper.
S: DAMN!!! [Now I'm starting to dip into some of my more secret shit,
and he's up on 'em!]
D: I've got almost everything. Hold on, let me play you something. [Diamond
plays this fat-ass drumbeat over the phone.]
S: That's some fat shit. You just got that?
D: I caught it a couple of months ago.
S: I know you got the Bill Cosby beat, right?
D: "Salvation Army."
S: Yeah, I can't put nothing past you. Uh, Shuggie Otis?
D: You got the Mickey Mouse Band?
S: Nah, I've been trying to get that for a while. I bought some bullshit
Disney records trying to find it, but I haven't seen the right one yet.
D: Maybe I'll trade you one for something. You got S.O.U.L. drums?
S: Yeah, I got that on my wall, Burning Spear and all that.
D: You got the second album they made?
S: Nah, I didn't know they made a second album.
D: I got the bassline on "The Shit Is Real" from there. Yeah,
I do my homework. I've been collecting beats since 1980, back when
motherfuckers were cutting "Good Times". I had a crew of emcees,
and whenever we battled, I always made sure I had something I could throw
on that the other kid didn't have.
S: What's the weirdest record with a beat on it that you have?
D: "The Whistle Train". You wanna hear it?
S: Hell yeah! [Diamond plays a record with music that sounds like something
from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, then a FONKY beat suddenly breaks out of
the noise. Some real get-you-open shit.] Damn, I gotta look for that.
D: That shit is hard to find.
Yo, all crate diggin' fanatics, let me know how you dug the piece on Diamond.
And hey, see you in the used record section!
e-mail the Soulman