Through the years, hip-hop has seen many heralded collectives come through and leave their imprint on the game. There was the Juice Crew with all of their talented lyricists. The Native Tongue made their impact with their hippy sensibilities and innovated the genre with their jazz infused brand of hip-hop. The Hit Squad, Wu-Tang Clan, Dogg Pound and Hieroglyphics would all give us some of the most colorful personalities and influential records in hip-hop history. All of these collectives were legendary and worthy of the props they garnered, but there is one collective that often gets overlooked but deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the previous crews. Diggin’ In The Crates.
DITC was a collective of producers and emcees (Diamond D, Showbiz and AG, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, Big L , Buckwild and O.C.) who collectively are responsible for a number of hip-hop classics over the years. But today we focus on the co-founder of DITC, Diamond D. Bronx native Joseph “Diamond D” Kirkland first came on the scene as a deejay for Zulu Nation member Jazzy Jay. In the late eighties he became the deejay/producer and one half of the duo Ultimate Force, who were signed to the Strong City label. The duo actually recorded a full album (I’m Not Playin’) that never saw daylight, thanks to industry politics that kept is shelved for nearly 20 years (it would finally be released in 2007 after the Strong City catalog was purchased by Traffic Entertainment Group). Shortly after his stent with Ultimate Force, Diamond and Showbiz (of Showbiz and AG) begin DITC, and Diamond would make his first real dent in the game producing several tracks on Lord Finesse’s debut album Funky Technician. From there, Diamond would continue to build his production resume, until a deal with Mercury pretty much fell in his lap while playing beats at a studio session. Diamond would release his debut album Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop in the fall of 1992.
Stunts would not only feature production from Diamond D, but he would also hold down the bulk of the microphone duties. By the way, don’t let the group name fool ya. The Psychotic Neurotics are just a bunch of Diamond’s boys who stop by to contribute silly interludes throughout Stunts. Without further adieu, lets jump into it.
Intro – The album opens with a dope and semi-creepy instrumental, as a distorted voice introduces the listener to Stunts.
Best Kept Secret – This was the first single released from Stunts. Over his own decent mid-tempo backdrop, Diamond brags and boasts about the duo threat he poses with his ability to rhyme and produce (and he makes it clear that he writes his own rhymes in the first verse). When this originally came out it didn’t grab me right away, but the more I listened to it, it grew on me (thanks largely to the nice flute loop and the Big Daddy Kane vocal sample on the hook), and I grew to dig it.
Sally Got A One Track Mind – On this second single from Stunts, Diamond recalls the life and times of a promiscuous dip named Sally, and all she’s willing to do for the lust of money. Diamond hooks up a backdrop that is equally somber and beautiful (the bass line is sick!), as he tactfully approaches the subject with a seriousness that most rappers would cover with masochistic satire (although he does make a comical reference to her later on “What You Seek”). This sounds just as good today as it did 20 plus years ago.
Step To Me – Showbiz gets his first production credit of the night for this mediocre instrumental. Diamond does a decent job with it, but it’s far from one of the strongest songs on Stunts.
Shut The “*!*!* Up – A short interlude featuring Diamond’s Psychotic Neurotic homies (who go by the Psychos for short) singing exactly what the song title suggest. This quickly bleeds into the next song…
“*!*!* What U Heard – This was the third and final single released from Stunts. Diamond (with a co-production credit going to Showbiz) hooks up a dope backdrop with a well placed Sadat X vocal sample (taken from his verse on ATCQ’s “Show Business”, that he appeared on along with Diamond D) on the hook, and a bouncy bass line that’s guaranteed to keep your head bobbing like a hooker in the backseat of a Cadillac. While the instrumental is the true star of this one, Diamond does a pretty solid job on the mic as well.
I’m Outta Here – Diamond D (with a co-production credit going to Showbiz) hooks up yet another nasty backdrop, as he dedicates this one to “all the brothers who got six or seven different addresses”. On each of his three verses, Diamond shares the story line (with great attention to detail) that has three different “John Doe’s” on the run for different reasons. This was dope, and very well executed by the producer turned rapper.
A Day In The Life – Diamond may have sampled Sadat X vocal for “*!*!* What U Heard”, but he actually gets him to spit a verse on this one, along with his Brand Nubian partner, Lord Jamar. Each of the parties involved drop decent verses about what the title suggest, but the laid back understated instrumental is the true star of this one.
Last Car On The 2 Train – The Psychos return for this interlude, as they partake in a ranking session. None of their jokes made me laugh, but maybe you’re easier to amuse than me.
Red Light, Green Light – The hook and the first verse would lead one to believe this song is about a chick leading our host on. But from the second verse on, Diamond takes a slight detour and the song just winds up being rhymes about random dating encounters. Not my favorite song on Stunts, but the instrumental is decent, and overall the song is as well.
I Went For Mine – This might be my favorite song on Stunts. The legendary Zulu Nation OG, Jazzy Jay, hooks up a buttery instrumental (with a co-production credit going to our host) that Diamond D tip toes over with nimble precision. This is still dope!
Comment From Big “L” And Showbiz – Interlude that plays exactly how it reads. Rip Big L.
Check One, Two – This slow placed instrumental reminds me of a cowboy duel in an old Western movie. That’s not a diss either, because the backdrop is nasty! Diamond follows suit, as he stays composed and drops some of his best rhymes of the entire album on this one (“now everyone can get a sample, of the skills that won’t trample, when I build an example of the will that’s stronger than Samson, see I’m the champ son, when I relax, I’m off to the Hamptons”). This was sick.
What You Seek – Another dope instrumental and solid rhymes, courtesy of our host.
Lunchroom Chatter – The Psychos pick up where they left off at on “Last Car On The 2 Train”, as they continue their ranking session at the lunchroom table on this interlude.
Confused – Diamond D builds this funky instrumental around a loop from Kleeer’s “Intimate Connection”, as he paints a detailed story about bumping into an ex who dissed him for another man, but now wants to rekindle what they once had. Some may consider this a sellout track for Diamond; and while crossing over may have been his intent (even the liner notes state it was intended to get people on the dance floor), I like this one. You at least have to give him props for shouting out Gang Starr on this one.
Pass Dat S**t – Over easily the weakest instrumental on the album, Diamond invites a few of his homies (Whiz One, Maestro, Mike G.Q. and Fat Joe) to join him on this cypher joint, and it’s a hot mess. Next…
Freestyle (Yo, That’s That Sh…) – When the conversation of nicest producers on the mic comes up, you’d be remiss not to mention Large Professor’s name. He drops by to lend a helping hand on the production end and lets our host hold down the microphone duties, as he spits more random rhymes about any and everything. This was solid.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) – Speaking of producers who can rap, Q-Tip (who some might consider a rapper first, who also produces) gets a co-production credit on this one. The instrumental is built around the same Clarence Wheeler loop that Premo would later make popular on the Gang Starr/Nice & Smooth classic collabo “DWYCK”. As much as I love and respect Q-Tip and Diamond’s production skills, their interpretation of this loop aint fuckin’ with Premo’s. Yet in still, it’s a solid backdrop, and Diamond does it justice.
Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop – Our host hooks up a beautiful bouncy backdrop (tongue twister much) and dedicates a verse to each of the subjects in the song title. With the exception of his substituting “spent” with the made-up word “spunt” in the name of making his lines rhyme, Diamond executes the plan brilliantly.
Wuffman Stressed Out – This interlude must have been an inside joke. I hate when rappers do that shit! At least the guitar loop used on the backdrop is sick.
Feel The Vibe – Showbiz joins Diamond D on this one (and also gets a co-production credit for the instrumental), as each of them address artists who choose to sellout their music in an attempt for quick financial gratification. The simple drum beat isn’t spectacular, but the saxophone loop brought in on the hook is both sexy and infectious.
A View From The Underground – Stunts ends with a short mad-rapper-type-rant from Fat Joe, complaining about “bullshit rappers getting dope deals”. Ironically, in less than a decade he would become the thing he once despised. Time is illmatic.
Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows how I feel about extremely long albums. But if you don’t, here’s a quick recap: long albums tend to have a handful of filler songs that should have been left on the cutting room floor, but instead the artist decides to include these songs on the album, which tends to bog it down and ultimately tarnishes the final product. At twenty-three tracks, Stunts could have easily fallen into this all too common snare, but miraculously it avoids it. I guess it’s not fair to say miraculously, considering seven of the twenty-three tracks are interludes, but if hip-hop were a professional sport Diamond would have been a strong contender for rookie of the year for his masterful production work (with an occasional assist from a few other hip-hip greats) on this severely underrated debut album.
While there’s no question that Diamond D is a better producer than emcee, he still does a solid job behind the mic (with only a few guest appearances), and sums it up best on “Check One, Two” with “the style is dope even though it’s simplistic”. With the exception of the drowsy cypher joint “Pass Dat S**t”, Stunts is a quality listen from beginning to end, and an often overlooked (or maybe just forgotten?) classic.