Still Spittin’: Rah Digga Interview

In an environment where image and visibility are as vital as an artist’s output, allowing ten years to pass before delivering new material to a fickle audience can be considered assisted suicide. A fan’s deaf ears and blind eyes amass dust as swiftly as a shelved album and undoubtedly ensure label limbo in the afterlife.

On the other hand, an emcee with the ability to “spit a million rhymes in 240 seconds” can remain relevant when everyone else has long been forgotten. Rah Digga is that class of emcee and Soul Culture recently spoke with her about her Classic album, giving back to the community and why loving your craft is ultimately more important than sales.

Rah Digga, born Rashia Fisher, has always been impressive. She first gained notoriety by going toe-to-toe on the second verse of “Cowboys” with mic deity Lauryn Hill on The Fugees acclaimed album The Score. She excelled as a member of two all-male crews, The Outsidaz and Flipmode Squad, and had the industry abuzz with talk of her solo effort.

In 1999 Digga’s debut solo record, Dirty Harriet, garnered high marks from critics as well as fans. Her rough and ready rhyme-style secured underground fans whilst singles “Tight” and “Imperial” demanded repeated spins on radio and in clubs. Fisher was lauded as the next MC Lyte and seemed destined for great things.

Unfortunately, the New Jersey native’s second album Everything Is a Story was never released by J Records and the bright career appeared to be headed for a dull death. Thankfully, Digga continued to record and write whilst studying editing and directing at the Film Academy in NY, and as the ten year anniversary of Dirty Harriet approached, Rashia had a brilliant idea.

“I decided to do a commemorative EP,” she begins. “So I reached out to DJ Premier and Pete Rock and some of the other producers from Dirty Harriet. It started with Nottz, and I was just going to make 5 or 6 songs for an EP. Raw Koncept [her new label home] said don’t just record six, record ten and then we’ll take the best six,” she remembers.

“I got to ten and it was like ‘Ay! I just did a whole album,’ she laughs. In the end, the album’s evolution pleased everyone involved, but the former Flipmode associate claims she needed to be convinced to use only one producer in the beginning.

“At first I was worried about everything sounding the same and the album becoming too monotonous. But the advantage is that your album sounds more cohesive” she explains. “Sometimes when you work with a bunch of producers you can end up with a hodgepodge. You try to make one song for the streets, and then one for radio and another for the club and you can end up appealing to no one. You have people skipping every song on the album until they get to that one they like.”

The results may have surprised the emcee but the process sounds like a match made in heaven for someone who so meticulously crafts her rhymes.

“One of the things I have to do when I’m making a song is write the entire alphabet at the top of the page and I use that as my index because it’s important to me that I don’t just use the last two words of each bar to rhyme,” she admits. “I make it a point to rhyme [more than] two words, possibly three or four.”

“Instead of the punch-line being every second bar,” she continues, “sometimes I’ll take that hard-hitting second bar and instead of having a bunch of stuff leading up to the punch, I’ll take that punch and make it the first line.” Fisher claims it makes her step up the rest of the bars to adhere to the standard of music that educated her. A drive and inspiration she feels is lacking in the majority of the new generation.

“Honestly I feel kind of bad for the youth today. Everything is so watered down so you can’t blame them for the music they make because who do they have to look up to,” she reasons.

“There’s not enough substance coming out on the airwaves. Where are the Lyte and KRS One of 2010? They don’t exist. Or if they do, they sure as hell aren’t being played on the radio.”

Digga reckons there are numerous reasons for the state of the industry and the number one culprit is the industry itself.

“I would never sign with another major label, “she vows. “They can contribute to the demise of the artistry because it becomes about everything but the music.” One death J Records [whom she refers to as a “rap buzz kill”] contributed to was a record Digga promises would have made Flipmode Squad one of the best rap crews ever. Unfortunately, the inability to see beyond the immense shadow of Busta Rhymes resigned the collective to the side-lines.

This belief also explains why independent label Raw Koncept is the perfect opportunity for Rashia to release a Rah Digga record on her own terms.

“Music is my first love,” she offers. “So it’s definitely a different approach [at a major label] when you’re in it for the fame or you’re trying to be popular or you have to be a commodity for the label. When you have those types of mitigating factors going on, that affects the type of music you make.”

“You may want to rap a certain way or have a certain sound or even a certain selection of production but because you are working with a machine you have to worry about everybody getting their money back and that can compromise the artistic side of it. I’m doing it because I care about rapping.”

Rah Digga’s passion extends outside of music as well. She studied electrical engineering at university and that coupled with her new knowledge of editing and directing is paving the way for a life after the desire to make dope music dissipates.

“I ain’t no spring chicken!” she exclaims, “and I don’t plan on doing this too much longer.” She then reels off a list of extracurricular endeavours.

Digga is very active in her community, working with non-profits to put at-risk youth to work feeding the homeless and partnering with creative arts and science foundations to teach kids Final Cut and Pro Tools. Most of the students she helps do not have access to computers and she knows it is essential for them to keep up with technology in the digital age.

Yet even with everything she has on her plate, music remains at the forefront of her mind. She concedes that another album is always possible given the “crazy chemistry” she and Nottz share, though a few other producers have caught her ear as well.

Black Milk, 9th Wonder and Illmind are the kinds of producers that embody the kind of artist that I am. That’s the kind of line-up that would ensure you get an authentic Rah Digga album.”

With that said, she has huge expectations for Classic.

“I want people to be able to listen to this album 10 to 20 years from now the way I listen to Illmatic today and think that it’s probably the best Hip Hop album I’ve ever heard.

“I want to put an album out that lets the world know you don’t need all the smoke and mirrors and facades to be successful.”

Reproducing the magic of the seminal Hip Hop masterwork may seem like lofty goals, but Rah Digga sees no reason to aim lower, nor does she want a pass because of her gender.

“I don’t expect any special treatment because I’m a female. Either I’m a dope emcee or I’m wack and, fortunately, people think I’m dope.”

As long as Rah Digga continues to write the kind of witty, eye-brow raising lyrics her fans expect, there is no reason to believe she will stop spittin’ any time soon.

–Jermaine Dobbins

Rah Digga’s current single “This Ain’t No Kid Rap” is available now – click to buy.
Her new album, Classic, is released 14 September via Raw Koncept. Pre-order: iTunes / Amazon [UK] / Play

Rah Digga online: Twitter / MySpace

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