Tag Archives: Basement Beat Records

 DIGGIS –  Hip Hop True Believer

Hip Hop often gets a bad rap. There’s a view that it’s violent, sexist, venal,egotistical and crude. Like in lots of other other music forms such as rock, metal or dance hall that is often the case. But at the heart of real hip hop, of true Hip Hop, are the true believers. The ones who from the very beginning believed in the power of this art form to educate, empower, create optimism and transform lives. To cut through the crap and conflict and turn the light up real bright.

Jump to Cairns Festival on the esplanade last year, sunny as,  and so clear that Thornton’s Peak hums in the distance. Thousands are taking in the entertainment, enjoying the day. On and around the stage some real Hip Hop culture is going off. There’s an incredibly talented dance crew of all ages -Soul Predatorz, busting complex moves and inviting members of the crowd to join in.  A good solid bill of DJs and MCs from all over North Queensland are filling the air with their good funky shit. There’s people from all over, all colours and ages, all back grounds just digging it.  Digging the day, digging the freedom. There’s no bullshit, no agro, no bragging or sneering. In the middle of it all performing his own set and also trading rhymes with his Jungle Funk brothers is Diggis.

He’s  got a great flow -busting full of words, chucking down rhymes like ripe mangos. There’s lots of lyrical content but all delivered nice and clear, with a wryly confident feel and a quiet sense of hard won self control. There’s a bedrock deep naturalism with Diggis  who has no need to ply a shock card or lapse into imitation. Dropped onto classic boom bap rhythms -big bass kick drum and tight as snare hits, it is Hip Hop music with a solid gold old school feel, strong and hard, but relaxed with it too. The music has clarity and space. There’s sixties style strings and guitar figures, ska horn stabs, reggae beats, good soul bass lines and jazzy riffs. And the lyrics are about working at living  and having a bit of fun too. He spins pictures of a luxuriant green world and talks about being awake in it. Mighty conscious stuff alright but not preachy or boring. Its a no-nonsense celebration of the power of understanding what here and now means. Yeah  Diggis is a Hip Hop true believer.

Born and raised in funky Kuranda this young MC & producer grew up in the heart of the alternative and indigenous culture that the little rainforest town is known for. As a kid spending lots of time in the bush around him he was fascinated and absorbed by the flora and creatures and elements, growing an deep affinity for nature like a tap root of a giant penda tree. He loves nature. He knows it, the real thing that’s really worth keeping real, and that helps him cast a wise eye on the world.

Diggis got turned on Hip Hop by his school friend Aden Brim. I saw him spitting deadly rhymes in he early high school years with the Zennith Boyz I knew that one day I wanted to rock stages like him. Diggis began making his own beats and rhymes putting together lyrical flows and conjuring up soulful loops. There were some early projects, a mix-tape and CD release with Diggis putting in the hard yards as he began to find his vibe. In 2009 he performed at the Simmer Down event and Kuranda Roots festival and began to connect with the Hip Hop scene in Cairns.

Being invited to perform with the Cairns crew behind Basement Grits, Phat Fridays and Beat Basement records a few years ago was a great privilege and amazing boost Diggis says. Main men Dex Mo and Ricky Shamroxx got him down the hill and he became part of a no bullshit genuine North Queensland Hip Hop scene developing around gigs at The Green Ant Cantina. These regular Phat Fridays nights, other nights at The Jack and Pandamonium Room plus internet radio podcasts -and making the debut album release for the crew’s own Beat Basement label kept Diggis on an upward trajectory.

He values the camaraderie and results that working creatively with good mates brings and so likes collaborate. His friends Aden and Astro Brim from reggae/hip hop/rock monsters Zennith have contributed to two uniquely North Queensland songs of his. Check out the title track of his great debut album -Small Town Stories – to get a taste of this highly original vibe. He’s rocked it in Basement Grits on stage and on record and producer chums Develop and Uncle Toby add beats to his work. Diggis performs with Uncle Toby and Robby V as the very entertaining Jungle Funk Trio.

His brand new EP sized release Colours of Expression has gone even further enlisting the beats, loops and production expertise of top shelf overseas producers Leafdog, Mr Green and Runone to great effect. But the truly amazing icing on the cake is the lyrical and vocal contribution from the very fine Jean Grae who has worked with The Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, amongst others. Her precise and smoky voiced verses on “What’s It all For “make a winning contrast with Diggis’s up-front but not overdone rhymes. This has been an absolute highlight says Diggis acutely aware of the history and significance of Ms. Grae’s contribution to Hip Hop.

His deep respect for the origins of Hip Hop and how it has held communities together while also celebrating them has informed everything Diggis has done so far. His music, lyrics and performance are a perfect manifestation of this understanding. Diggis sees the truth at the heart of good hip hop -the inclusiveness and awareness. It’s about learning life lessons, sometimes the hard way, and passing this down-to-earth knowledge on. Its about caring, about being conscious. Diggis rates tracks like Taleb Kwali’s “Manifesto” & Q-Tip’s “N.T.” as some the best conscious Hip Hop around. In a perfect world he’d love to see these songs studied at school.

Diggis works mainly from the little jungle studio that is his home. It’s a cool uncluttered big room and there’s a vocal booth he built in the corner. Cassowaries wander the lawn and in the wet he can get cut off by rising flood waters. There’s fireflies and glow worms at night and giant spotted eels chilling in nearby creeks. Its a wild and vivid place and is very much the beating heart in Diggis’s work.

He’s got a gig with the Jungle Funk trio at Kuranda Roots Festival coming up and then he’s off to America for a spell -spending time on both coasts. There’s some artists he wants to see performing, open mic nights and scenes to drop in on. And’s he going to Brooklyn to stay for little while and check out some old school Hip Hop shrines in the New York. Like The Apollo Theater in Harlem. The spot on Sedgwick Avenue where Kool Herc rocked the first block parties. He’s going to go see the memorial murals dedicated to the greats who have passed on. The Biggie Smalls mural and the ones remembering original Hip Hop legends Big Pun & Big L. This show of respect and homage sounds like a pilgrimage from the heart.  But that’s no surprise -Diggis is a Hip Hop true believer.

Diggis performs with the Jungle Funk Trio at Kuranda Roots June 21st @ 3p.m.
Details here –http://www.kurandaroots.com/

Colours of Expression E.P. is just out at http://diggis.bandcamp.com/album/colours-of-expression

Debut album Small Town Stories is available at http://www.beatbasementrecords.com/