A.G. Reveals All-Star Lineup For Next Solo LP & Discusses D.I.T.C. Reunion (Video Interview)
A.G. was one of the performers on hand at this past weekend’s second annual J Dilla Weekend in Miami, Florida. Like fellow performers T3 (Slum Village), Black Thought, Royce Da 5’9, Diamond D, and honoree Pete Rock, Andre The Giant worked with Dilla before the producer/MC’s February 10, 2006 death.
Speaking with Ambrosia For Heads, the Bronx, New York veteran touched upon the magnitude of James Yancey’s influence. “J Dilla’s the inspiration. He inspired all of us,” said A.G., whose groups (Showbiz & A.G. and Diggin’ In The Crates) were also influences on Dilla and Slum.
Just before Dilla’s death, ‘Dre would collaborate with the Detroit, Michigan native—who like A.G., was living in California in 2006. “I was based out in San Francisco during the Get Dirty Radio album.” A Look Records release, the album was orchestrated by Foreign Legion’s DJ Design, who had longstanding ties to Stones Throw Records. “[DJ Design] was very familiar with the whole vibe: Madlib, J Dilla, Jake One, so forth and so on. I went out to Cali’ to do a different type of album.” For his sophomore solo LP, A.G. branched out from his acclaimed work with Show, Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C.), and what listeners heard on 1999’s The Dirty Version. “Most of the time, I’m rhyming with Diggin’ In The Crates [producers]. So we tried something different, and we got some Dilla tracks. He was very sick at the time too. Just trying to do as many [tracks] as possible was really a blessing. Unfortunately, we were only able to do one. But that one is very special. It’s called ‘Hip Hop Quotable.’” That song would be a B-side single to the Madlib-produced “Frozen,” released just after Dilla’s death. The BX veteran was able to include Jay Dee’s steady production (and mixing) hand. “I laid my vocals down and sent them to him. He ended up doing the ad-libs, sent it back—so it was a complete song.” The single would also notably feature a pre-mainstream Aloe Blacc.
On the subject of D.I.T.C., he confirmed the veteran collective’s plans to release an album in 2016. “We’re doing a D.I.T.C. Studios album. Everybody’s involved with it; it’s coming out real dope. Everybody’s comin’ forth with their fire.” With one official, all-encompassing group album, 2000’s self-titled Tommy Boy Records release, this LP aims to include all the living members. Big L would be murdered in February, 1999—during the recording for the crew’s studio debut. After reports for the last dozen years of a follow-up involving all members, A.G. admitted, “It’s long overdue, so I’m really just happy to make sure that this happens. I’m happy that it’s just coming to fruition.” He added that this one in particular celebrates the sound that made D.I.T.C. so respected in the Hip-Hop community. “This album is like that: no experimenting, no playing games—we just gonna give [the fans] what they want.” Already, more than five tracks have released in 2016—featuring A.G., O.C., Diamond D, as well as Fat Joe. “We don’t want any false starts […] if you know Diggin’ In The Crates, we’re known for that. We don’t want to do that this time. [Chuckles]”
Notably, the Miami-based Fat Joe was a surprise guest at Dilla Weekend, in support of mentor Diamond and band-mate A.G.
Also in ’16, A.G. is planning his latest solo LP. “My solo album is called The Taste of Ambrosia…for heads [laughing],” playing on AFH. “Nah, but it’s called The Taste of Ambrosia. I’m really proud to put this album out. There’s a lot of consciousness in it. I think that’s needed in this day and age, as far as Hip-Hop is concerned. I never feel Hip-Hop is dead, [even if it is like it was] in the beginning, where it’s not in record stores and wasn’t easy to find. So it’s kinda just made its way back to the beginning: real Hip-Hop, you’ve got to look for it.” An MC who spent of much his career working with labels like Payday, Tommy Boy, and Fat Beats Records, A.G. draws parallels of the early days of Rap music and today’s grassroots market. In terms of sound, the album integrates some of ‘Dre’s key collaborators. “Taste of Ambrosia is about content. The production is there—all of my go-to’s: Lord Finesse, Diamond D, Showbiz, I got DJ Premier on there, Alchemist, Marco Polo. So the production is there, the music is there, the content—I think people really gonna like.” From the LP, A’ released the “Price Of Fame” video single in late January. “It’s giving you insight into what the rest of the album may sound like.”
Part of the increased output for D.I.T.C. may come from a new studio. In the early 2015 closing of Midtown Manhattan’s HeadQCourterz Studios (f/k/a D&D Studios), DJ Premier would move his operations, as would Showbiz—who shared the space. Now, for the first time in more than 20 years, D.I.T.C.’s recording operations are close to where the collective was founded. “If anything, it’s more motivation,” said A.G. of the relocation. “Now we have our own lil’ space—hometown, in the Bronx. It’s real good.” Showbiz, Finesse, Buckwild, and others have recently opened the studio to production work shops, featuring guest instructors such as Easy Mo Bee, Pete Rock, and Premier.
While the Bronx has always played a critical role in A.G.’s writing, the MC revealed that he has been living in Japan for the last months. While mixing A Taste of Ambrosia, the rapper has been doing shows in the Asian region. “I’m just really focused over there—not too many people recognize me. I don’t really know the language that well, so I’m really trapped in my own world. That helps to focus.” Among the associates A.G. is close with in Japan is DJ Muro, who he calls the “king of diggin’ out there.” Muro, a native of Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, has worked closely with Finesse and A.G., care of the Vinyl Athletes. “I mess with my dude deeply.”
#BonusBeat: “Price Of Fame” by A.G., the first single from The Taste of Ambrosia: