Published Sep 30, 2014It seems an antiquated notion now, but at one time the idea that a top-rated hip-hop producer could also be a highly competent MC were almost incompatible notions. Even those who managed to belie this axiom like Dr. Dre and Pete Rock were handed deduction points because their lyrics were ghostwritten at various points; this was also an underlying idea behind efforts to discredit the decidedly clunky flow of Kanye West's early career. In many ways, then, Diamond D's revered underground classic 1992 album Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop placed him in rarefied company in the producer/MC ranks, something that has not gone unnoticed by the stellar cast he's been able to assemble for The Diam Piece. Indeed, on "The Game," Grand Daddy I.U. asserts that "Diamond D is like the Dre of the East."
For The Diam Piece, the Bronx DITC alumnus gathers a cast that constitutes a who's who of '90s underground hip-hop and their modern adherents and is content to mostly play the background. Pharoahe Monch ensures things start off right with the previously released "Rap Life." The beguiling following track, "Where Is The Love?" featuring Talib Kweli, Elzhi and Skyzoo, underlines the album's theme of struggling to maintain relevance in a genre constantly seeking out the new. While he does showcase his versatility as a producer over the album's 19 songs, Diamond betrays an affinity for a seemingly endless supply of shiny jazz guitar loops and taut drums on the best cuts, showing he hasn't lost his crate-digging step. Other highlights include the all-female cut "Pump Ya Brakes" featuring Rapsody, Stacy Epps and Boog Brown, the melancholy "Pain" featuring AG and Chino XL and "Hard Days" featuring the Pharcyde, as well as "We Are the People of The World," a reunion with his West Coast connects the Alkaholiks and Kurupt.
Other contributions from other producer/MCs like the Stepbrothers, Hi-Tek and Kev Brown, which look promising on paper, sometimes underwhelm detracting from the album's potency, but Diamond wisely does not completely cede the booth and he steps to the mic on a few tracks like "Superman" and "Jose Feliciano," making his most succinct observation on the Pete Rock-assisted jewel "Only Way 2 Go," on which he asserts "All these producers want to rhyme now/ I led all that." (Dymond Mine/Empire Distribution)