Published Oct 12, 2010Few rap heads would argue that credible boom-bap producer Diamond D is a dynamic MC, but that hasn't kept loyalists from canonizing the producer-turned-rapper's 1992 debut, Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop. So it is with Diamond's blueprint ― chunky beats, choice cameos, serviceable rhymes by the album's host ― that many a beatmaker (No I.D., Havoc, Alchemist, et al.) has snatched the mic for an entire solo LP. It isn't enough for Nottz to bang out hits for everyone from Snoop Dogg to Busta Rhymes in a 12-year production career, or to helm Rah Digga's solid comeback LP this fall, the Norfolk sample-hound had to return to his first love: rhyme. You Need This Music, a vast improvement from Nottz's ill-fated '05 project with Virginia crew D.M.P., wins for three reasons. Nottz layers his drum patterns with soulful samples heavy on the low end; he spices, but doesn't overload, his compositions with diverse guests (Kardinal Offishall, Mayer Hawthorne, Joell Ortiz); and, most crucial, he plays his role as an MC. His couplets, which are average on paper, spring from the soul, not the brain. Nottz's droopy slang rides naturally in the buttery bass, never trying to overthrow his strong suit. The best songs are actually guest-free. The ethereal "A Dream Come True" is the most comprehensive ode to dead musicians ever and "Shine So Brite" knocks harder than diabetic trick-or-treaters.
Why, after 12 years in the production game, have you decided to pick up the mic and release your first solo album as an MC?
I started out rapping, and ain't nobody wanna give me beats. That's why I started doing beats. Then I was like, "Okay, this is what I wanna do." I had the group D.M.P., and I rap on the majority of the songs with them, but it was never like a solo thing. My manager has always pushed me to do it, so if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be doing an album right now.
Your lead single/video, "Shine So Brite," is a nod to the late J Dilla, another producer who rapped as well. How would you describe your relationship with him?
Oh, man, we were supposed to do an album together. We were sending beats back and forth; it just never happened. God rest his soul; I miss that brother. He was a quiet dude, down to earth, a workaholic, one of the best that did, it, man. I wish I was him, you know what I mean? Most of the music he did, I was like, "Damn, I wish I'd have did that." So much amazing shit that he put together ― so many try to imitate that, and they can't do it. (Raw Koncept)