When Rah Digga first entered the scene, she transcended being viewed as the first lady of Busta Rhymes' FlipMode Squad and made people believe in her skills as an MC. Hip-hop heads immediately took notice of her signature deep voice and hard-hitting clever rhymes. Her debut, 2000’s Dirty Harriet, displayed that she was ready for lyrical war and helped solidify her fanbase who waited (and waited) nearly a decade for her sophomore album to drop.
After years of dealing with label drama, splitting from her crew and taking a vacation from music to pursue acting and TV/Film editing, she’s ready to tackle hip-hop again. Content with being independent, Rah Digga has teamed up with Nottz for her sophomore LP, Classic (out September 14), a project that as she tells it, lives up to it's title. VIBE caught up with the Jersey rapper to talk about why her new album deserves its title, why female MCs need to get on their grind on and how she’s about to remind you why she should be in your top 10 list. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: Classic was originally supposed to come out in June but got pushed back to September. What happened?
Rah Digga: We never really had a release date. We were shooting for summertime but now that everything is all put together and all the components are in place, September 14 is the realistic release. It’s classic boom bap hip-hop at its finest. Classic is all beats, all rhymes, no cameo features. If you’re a fan of Dirty Harriet then you’re gonna love this times 10. It’s a Nottz-only produced album. He produced most of the tracks that everyone loves on the first album⎯“Straight Spittin” being one of them. This is basically a montage of all that rugged, raw stuff that everyone loves from Rah Digga.
Some people consider Dirty Harriet a classic and your name comes up as one of the dopest underrated MCs. Is that an accurate assessment?
I wouldn’t call myself underrated, I’m not a quote-unquote "famous mainstream rapper" but I wouldn’t call myself underrated. Underrated by whose standards? The person that’s listening to the radio all day or the person that’s actually listening to lyrics? I wouldn’t consider myself underrated because people are still talking about me as far as lyrics go. I think the problem is that people haven’t heard enough of me because I didn’t get to release a lot of stuff. There’s a whole lot of other stuff going on that can distract you if I’m not consistently putting out music but I think by the time this album is all over there wont be anymore underration going on [Laughs].
You’ve had some publicized label drama so talk about your journey and how you got to where you are now.
I was originally scheduled to release Everything is a Story on J Records back in ’04 and there was a situation where Busta wasn’t happy with his release prior to and he was secretly negotiating with Aftermath. We were trying to keep it under raps until my album came out but they got wind of it and gave all of us the boot, which is cool.
" I thought this album was gonna be like my Stillmatic for Dirty Harriet but now I’m feeling confident enough to call it an Illmatic album."
So that’s why your second album never dropped after all the hype was built from the “Party and Bullshit” video?
Yep. That’s why my second album never came out. So we did the mixtape circuit for a couple of years and after that I just got real tired of that. It was like, “I’m just giving away music now and I’m not really getting anything out of it except for street buzz,” so I took the time off and moved away. I was back and forth between California getting my acting chops on. I went to school for film editing so now on top of rapping I’m gonna be directing and editing my own videos as well, so that was another notch under the belt that I’ve accomplished in the meantime. And now as my 10-year album anniversary approached, I started seeking out some of the producers from the first project. I made a couple of calls to some of the producers on the album but Nottz was the first producer that I actually visited but once I got to VA I never left. I ended up finishing this album. It was like that whole synergy was there. As soon as I got in the booth everything unleashed. It was a beautiful thing. We’re doing 10 songs on the album⎯the Illmatic formula, and it’s like time is gonna reveal all.
As far as your split with FlipMode Squad, you and Busta aren’t pulling a Remy Ma and Fat Joe are you?
No beef whatsoever. I just basically made a phone call to Busta like, “It’s not fair to you to keep running around shouting out FlipMode and I’m not checking for rap now.” Well, it wasn’t that I wasn’t checking for rap, because I’m gonna always love music⎯It was that I wasn’t checking for the circumstances that I was in, so I just removed myself from the situation. It was an amicable split. There’s never been any beef or any war of words. We still communicate to this day. We don’t get to see each other because he’s one place and I’m in another. But there’s no bad blood between us at all.
What are your thoughts on the Lil Kim/Nicki Minaj situation?