Although Fresno is smack bang in the middle of Los Angeles and San Francisco. The city homes an artist who has been around for a minute, Diego Redd.
Signed to Def Jam earlier this decade, he took a situation which didnít really work in his favor and flipped it into a learning experience. Not falling into any real West Coast categorization, Diego Redd has garnered attention from names like Kanye West and E-40 and, beats from Clark Kent, No ID and Rick Rock and worked up with manager Aaron Anderson after telling a little white lie. The dude knows how to hustle.
He doesnít jump on anyoneís coat tails to bring attention to his craft. With tracks like "Savior" and "Time Bomb" showing the diversity he is capable of in his lyrical game you have to respect the mans grind at staying true to himself and representing Fresno.
Here he talks to AllHipHop.com about his ride, women and what being an individual in a vast sea of MCs is really about.
Q: Ok you are from Fresno which is like the divide line in California between LA and the Bay Area.
A: Yeah we are dead center in the middle.
Q: But you kind of obliterate everything that you associate with LA and then from the Bay, what are you bringing to the game, actually let me rephrase that, what have you brought to the game as you have been around for a minute?
A: I feel I bring hope and life to people that are from regions that are just outside of the regions that hold it, you know LA has been known for the West Coast as when people think of the West Coast they think of 64 Chevrolets, khakis, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog and we have some of that sound but at the same time we have a different element as we are still two and a half hours away from them. You know just like New York for a minute, everyone was from Brooklyn or Queens, but then you had DMX, Mary J Blige, The Lox they were from Yonkers as no-one knew where Yonkers was for a minute and it was harder for them to get on. We are somewhere like that, we are right there where everyone is but the bigger cities surrounding us keep us from being known and the artists who know the areas cant really identify because the population in those cities is so much bigger and it is what people from other cities know as the West Coast. No one takes a vacation to where I am from, it is just pretty much what people know. I am just giving something to the game as a whole, you know people from areas that are not large populated cities but live like large populated cities, our crime rate is not a good thing, it gets as high as theirs does, higher and the same and we are one city, whereas cities like Los Angeles have different cities making up what people call Los Angeles. We are the size of one Compton or one Inglewood, you know when you think of Los Angeles itís a whole but it is a number of cities and we are just one little city in the middle of nowhere.
Q: If you were to categorize yourself, would you be able to do that, because when I heard your tracks you didnít fall into what we make the mistake of expecting from an artist from your area?
A: A lot of people in the Bay area as they begin to get on, people in Los Angeles looked at them like they were doing Crunk and they thought people from the Bay were from the South. Fresno is flat country so it has that feel and no matter where you are from, everybodyís parents came form somewhere in the South and we are real family orientated from Fresno up towards the Bay Area, the gang presence in LA is more of a system they follow than where it is where I am from, our thing is more family orientated and you kind of like born into what your family is from. I donít have a problem people thinking I am from the Mid West as I am going to let them know exactly where I am from but, they think a lot of the people from the Bay are biting the South or have a Southern sound, that is just the lifestyle, there it is dread locks and itís been the gold teeth where I am from for a long time before the South.
Q: So would you accept that nowadays to get ahead you have to categorize yourself, you know like with the Hyphy movement?
A: No I wouldnít necessarily use it to get a head but what I would do is I have no problem with it, R.I.P. to Mac Dre, he was doing shows in Fresno for probably three months straight, he was a good dude who was working with a lot of my dudes, we did a few shows together as I am a part of that movement as the Bay has this whole independent movement, if the Bay wasnít on right now it would still be the same way it is right now as they embrace each other, like I said it is a family thing. I am buying CDs for five dollars off people because you are my family, I wouldnít have a problem as being categorized as being part of the Hyphy movement because I am pushing that. E-40 was on my first album, Mac Dre was on The Living Proof album and my group, we have just worked with San Quinn.
Q: So you embrace it all. This is the foundation of a super star though isnít it, when you can work with everybody as opposing to boxing yourself in to one genre?
A: Yeah and that is what I am trying to show, I am an individual. You know on my own money I have been everywhere from California to New York, down to Florida and back across the South. I fit in wherever I go and I embrace black people in general and then after them I embrace all people, everyone that is living, everyone has a struggle, everyone has a plan or a goal and that is a life.
Q: Going back you had a situation with Def Jam, how hard was it for you to get out of that situation? You know we see big artists get caught up in label issues, The Clipse most recently. Then we see a Former Breeding Ground artist Stimuli get caught up too. Did this mess up your flow so to speak?
A: It kind of did, not my flow as an artist but my flow in life. Peace to Stimuli too as I understand what he is dealing with and he is dope and there are not too many people out there who are dope and itís a shame we get bad deals. Just like Kneak the Sneak and E-40 have been around forever, you know these are dudes that have seven or eight albums, they been dope. It didnít knock my flow as an artist as I will always be true to myself and continue to go to the lab every day and cook up something that is me every day. But my life like I said I am from a smallish city and I donít many other artists from areas from me, who made it to a label as big as Def Jam and then have that happen, where it wasnít based upon he is not a good artist as that was what got me signed, but what happened was they had some stuff going on and Kevin Liles signed me himself directly; they had a situation with some stuff going on with one of their subsidiary labels that put a freeze on accounts for living expenses and stuff like that. I am from a small city and rent is a lot higher living in a city like Los Angeles compared to where I am from and that changed my life. I did want to stay in the loop and keep doing my music thing so it put a strain on my life more than it put a strain on my music as I am going to continue to do my music every day. But I also want to say that the Def Jam experience was one of the best things that could happen to me as an artist as I got to see how a label was run, what is expected of an artist on a major label, how they market, how they promote and at the same time that happened to me the independent shit was really really jumping off as when that happened it was like a blessing from God saying that he didnít want no-one to own me, you know I was my own mind, you know I am an artist, a promoter, a marketer, a producer. I produce, rap and write. People like the tracks of mine with either male or female singing on them and I still write those records all the way through and choreograph the record and make sure the artist is doing what I need them to be doing. So it didnít stop me, just helped me and made me stronger.
Q: Kanye bigs you up as one of the best rappers on the West Coast, if not the country, that is a big accolade, how did you hook up with Ye?
A: Friends of mine who own a small store called FDK, I was still living out in LA on Def Jam at the time and some friends of mine told me about a website that was for artists strictly from my area and they told me, you know you have a fan base and a following and they said I should go online and see what people were saying about me as there were a lot of questions about me, a lot of people who werenít from the ghetto like I am, couldnít believe there was an artist from Fresno signed to Def Jam. I was a myth, you know unless you knew me I was a myth, I have always moved and maneuvered, Arizona, New York, Florida, you know just because I was out of town people didnít think I was doing something. So I checked out the site and from there I got to talking to the people who ran the site and then one of the guys who was a graphic designer ended up doing some artwork for Kanye, on the first album. They then went to do some T-shirts and when Kanyeís tour came around he took the other owner of the store on tour for retail purposes and everyone was playing music on the tour bus and my guy just happened to play me one night, explained where I was from and they liked it. They were doing a record for the Boost Mobile commercial, Kanye Ludacris and Game and Kanye sent me the instrumental and I got that, laid something down and sent it back and from there dude said I was dope. He called me and blessed me with that drop, I checked my message service and Kanye had left the message saying I was one of the hottest out west and not to be arrogant or over confident I felt everything he said as I have put in enough work. You know I am not just for show.
Q: Your album Only the Strong Survive how long has that been out on the streets?
A: About four months now. It didnít really have an official release, it was just pretty much when the orders came in and my money was right.
Q: Your Living Proof album was pre-Def Jam or material while you were at Def Jam?
A: Living Proof was pre-Def Jam; it was records pretty much saying that I was living proof that I am exactly everything I say I am and from there I took a few of the Def Jam records and recorded some more stuff with Hecktik and that was the Dog Eat Dog: Only the Strong Survive with the co-sign from Kanye as that was really my mentality at the time. I felt like if I was really going to do this, only the strong, I had to go only the way out and only the strong get to go through all the ups and the downs of the game.
Q: What do you think it takes to survive in the industry?
A: Persistence, belief in God, belief in yourself and you have to be dope. There are a lot of dudes in the way because they know they not dope, but they know the right ni*@a and I want to tell them to get out the way, you know you not dope, find out what it is you are good at, if you are good at finding producers then find producers. There are a lot of dudes who helped me along my way because they were producers, they made hot records, they heard me do something hot over their beat and then they decide to be a rapper and then that crumbles apart and we lose our chemistry. You know now they are taking all their hot beats for themselves and they are not a hot rapper. You have to have hope because the planet is a big one, even though it is said to be a Ďsmall world,í it is a big one and there are a lot of people doing what we all do which is music and at the same time only the strong survive. The minute you doubt yourself how can you be mad at someone else for doubting you?
Q: You have been blessed with beats from some big names, No ID, Clark Kent, how did this happen, was this the Def Jam situation?
A: My manager at the time was a gentleman by the name of Aaron Anderson who did the Set It Off and Three Strikes soundtrack and he was really supportive of me. I met him at a Starbucks at the time I was homeless, was living in Hollywood and I heard him having a convo about Xzibit and I knew Xzibit through some friends a while back. So I untruthfully told this guy I met him with Xzibit, gave him my CD and he called me after listening to it and said he would help me get a deal. He had a lot of ties, so from there he contacted a lot of people and got me a lot of beats. There was a guy managing Rick Rock at the time, Big John and he would always send me hot beats and that is big for an artist nowadays as now the artist and his backdrop have to be one and you have to have some good producers behind you.
Q: Your track ďSaviorĒ is heavily sampled, what is your definition of a hot beat?
A: It is really a feeling. A hot beat is a feeling I get. You know maybe when I sit down and do my record I will say I only want these kind of records, but right now I am not at liberty to do so because I am a hungry artist. Because whatever I can get if you give me something that is hot I am going to lay something hot on it. I am going to let whoever blessed me with the beat bless me. It is a certain feeling you get as well as the people in the room with you. I donít ask people for opinions as I really donít give a f**k about anyoneís opinions but my own but I know peoples natural reaction when my records come on. You know there are some records where I rap and I can say some shit that will go over some peoples head so they have to listen to the record a few times. I have been blessed with the ability to do those records where I can get out all my thoughts and my feelings and say a lot and at the same time do two or three dumb down records so people get it right away, the club smash, the R&B stuff. Savor is one of my favorite records as it was something I was feeling one night as it was something I wrote really fast, came in played a load of beats and went from there.
Q: Saying that, you donít care about other peoples opinions, isnít that a little arrogant?
A: No not at all because I am a listener. When I say I donít give a f**ck about someone elseís opinion it doesnít mean that I am going to sit there and not take it in. I am blessed with a lot of game every day, there is a producer who does a lot of work for Snoop and is on Detox, called Jelly Roll, he was living in my apartment and he gives me a lot of game. Before he gives me a beat he gives me a lot of game and I take it in. A lot of people will tell you anything, like a lot of label execs will tell you Nelly is hot, get me three Nellys and the A&Rs will be running around trying to find people like Nelly, but there only is one Nelly. Ni**as trying to run around like Nelly need to quit.
Q: Your track ďIncredible,Ē women buy your music so therefore you have to create music for the female audience, is that what this track was about?
A: Yes you do and I am a lover of women. I donít consider that I go in the studio for the women right now, never. I just go in and do what is on my mind. You know on that track it is very personal and I am talking to only one woman. Just like the right beat will give you that feeling so will a woman and I just go in and if it happens to be a song about a woman I am seeing at the time or if it is someone I dealt with years back, I know I have to do everything for everybody. I try to cover life; I know if I am living someone else is living. You know everyone has problems, money problems, hustling, and problems with n**gas and I try to cover life music. You know you have gangsta rap, backpack rap, they need to have Life rap. I can do a track with Talib and then turn around tomorrow and do one with the OG Dub C because I am living.
Q: You arenít considered conscious yet what you spit is conscious. One line that jumped out at me which speaks so much and really makes you think was Speak marriage before you think divorce/think your baby momma before you think intercourse.
A: I donít have no kids, I have a niece and I have a lot of young kids that follow me and I all I was saying there was think your babies momma before intercourse, you know if you are messing with her and you cant see her as your baby momma why would you be there as accidents occur. I am one of the few that is awake I think I have a thing to do by saying this, I am living you know I ainít got nothing else to do with my life but what I feel like I am supposed to be doing until I punch out.
Q: The car game on the west coast is sick, what do you ride?
A: I ride a Lincoln 78. I was raised by a lot of pimps, California has a pimp culture, it has a gang culture, it has the Berkley culture which is hippies, you know people who smoke a lot and do yoga. I am raised by a lot of pimps and the car comes from my pimp influences, we like big shit. We have little man complex but I am not a little guy, you know we like big shit, big cars, big women, women who do big shit for themselves, independent women.
Q: Are you here to try and change the game?
A: No the game is what it is, I ainít in control, not the supervisor but I am here to prove that I exist. Make a little room and listen to what I have to say.
Q: You have your own little indie thing going on donít you?
A: Yeah, Rebel Entertainment. I am looking for distribution and artist deals for my artists including myself, I have Scheme a real dope MC with a real grimey voice, he is like DMX meets Tupac, no disrespect to anyone, but he has a much higher caliber of spit with that voice that just grabs you. I have my group the Underworld Rebellion which consists of me and five other dudes, you know all from different parts of my city which unifies the city. Some of our neighborhoods are rivals so we came together and we formed like a rebellion against the system, against the oppression. We are rebelling against everything that opposes us. I have a reggae artist out of Long Beach by the way of Jamaica who is called Black Ice, real dope dude, writer singer, he gets down. Then A Plus who is a dope MC, when I look at him I think about the dudes that are dope to me right now like Papoose who isnít following anyone else, you know he found his format and he sticks to that. A lot of people go with a trend and I am trying to set a trend.
Q: What is your main priority?
A: Being Diego Redd, rapping to get me some money, buy my Momma a house so she donít have to walk up the stairs no more and giving the opportunity back, you know I had my opportunity so I am giving back. All the artists I mentioned they back me a hundred percent and they back me, they are waiting for their ni**a, then I can do what I can do for them. We are all in a different groove and like in the game as a whole I am not stepping on anyoneís toes as there isnít anyone like me. Just like Kanye when he came he filled a void that didnít bother 50 Cent, Nelly, Jay Z, he was just in his own little world and I am in my own little world and my main job is being Diego Redd right now.
To contact Diego Redd: Hecktik559@gmail.com or at his website. Photo by: Daniella Renee