INTERVIEW: Diamond District

PHOTO CREDIT: Neal Maclean / Brooklyn Bodega / The Couch Sessions

What do you think of when you think DC Hip-Hop?

In some circles it’s not Wale, or Tabi that gets mentioned, but the DMV’s own Diamond District. From LA to SXSW to Toronto, to NYC, it seems like the trio have been on the lips of everyone in the hip-hop underground after their debut album In The Ruff dropped last year.

And can we be surprised? The album is a throwback to 90s boom bap with some DC flavor, filling a void in the underground hip-hop scene. And on the strength of it, they have toured across the country and across the world. all while keeping their hometown closely in mind.

Add to that the strength of DJ Quartermane and you have one of the best forces in hip-hop right now.

We caught up with Diamond District at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival after they rocked their set under the Brooklyn Bridge a few weeks ago. They will be headlining the Tru Skool Soundstage along with DTMD and The Cornell West Theory SATURDAY at the Black Cat.

So we all know you guys have been stalwarts in the DC Hip-Hop Scene, but you guys only came together only recently. How did you guys form Diamond District?

Oddisee: We all met at different points in time throughout the U Street Corridor. I met these two gentlemen [Yu and XO] at Capital City Records. I was actually judging a beat contest that [yu] was in as a producer and [XO] was in as a featured MC.

Yu: Oddisse was putting together a solo album [at the time]. We put a song called Gully which was getting a good response out in Europe, but in order to bring us out there [to tour] we would have to do an album. So when Oddisee came back that was the approach. It took about 2 months back and forth via email to put together the album but it was good. The process was real smooth.

I know you’ve been touring. You hit Europe and the West Coast recently. It seems like DC hip-hop has only recently branched out to the rest of the country. How has the response been on tour?

Quartermane:  THEY LOVE US! There’s nothing more to say than that!

But also it’s not a lot of braggadocios rap, it’s content too. Our sound forces people to really listen on the lyric side, and musically it’s hard. You can’t just stand there and not feel it. So it’s a good combination of elements that make it pop off.

Is that the element to your success?

Oddisee: FIrst and foremost it’s good music, and a good campaign, and the support from our fans. We suported each other and our fans supported us, and it’s popping off.

DC has always been in an interesting situation. We’re not Northern, yet not Southern either so we pull from both sides. I hear that in your sound. What are you guys influences musically?

Oddisee – I would have to say our influences are our lives. We all grew up with different perspectives from the same upbringing, from the same area. From the inner cities to the suburbs, to the person who had to move in and out from the city to the suburbs. Our own individual perspectives influence all of our work.

Yu: We have a common respect among all of us and it shows.

It most certainly does. So what’s next for Diamond District?

Oddiseee: March on Washington, is the next album from Diamond District dropping 2011!

You heard it here first.

Diamond District will be headlining the Tru Skool Soundstage along with DTMD and The Cornell West Theory SATURDAY at the Black Cat.