The 16-year-old rapper Diggy performs at Pier Six Pavilion. (Handout photo, Handout…)
When your father is the "Run" in Run-DMC and your uncle is Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, it's a gift and a curse to pursue a career in hip-hop.
The gift is obvious: unlimited connections, a built-in brand name and hopefully some skills from Dad's DNA. But for Diggy — who raps without using his famous last name — it's the curse that makes the 16-year-old rapper's story interesting.
The struggle for Diggy, born Daniel Simmons III, wasn't just the pressure of being born into rap royalty, but also growing up on camera.
From October 2005 to July 2009, he was on MTV's reality show "Run's House" alongside his mother, five siblings and his Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame father. Diggy fought with his brothers, worried about grades, got braces and lived a seemingly normal, son-of-a-millionaire's life.
The cameras failed to capture one thing: Diggy's music.
Maybe that was on purpose. Diggy, aware he'd likely be written off as a kid trying to make it off his father's name, didn't tell anyone about the songs he was recording in the family's basement.
"It wasn't about stardom," said Diggy, who performs Friday at Pier Six Pavilion. "I didn't have intentions to even make [music] a serious career or a career at all. I just had a lot to get off my chest."
With the expertise of Uncle Russell and Rev. Run at his fingertips, it would have been easy for Diggy to ask for industry favors, or at least some pointers. That's just not how he works.
"[My dad] doesn't give me any advice," he said. "He just steps back. He's a supportive dad who's on the bleachers cheering. He never said, 'You should change this line or be a certain way.'"
After building buzz from his remix of Asher Roth's "She Don't Wanna Man" and earning blog-love from Kanye West for his freestyle over Nas' "Made You Look," Diggy signed with Atlantic Records on his 15th birthday.
When asked if "Run's House" has been a roadblock for people taking him as a serious rapper, Diggy simply shrugs it off.
"This is my path," he said. "What's happened is because it was meant to be. A lot of the time, people don't want to be happy for people, like putting Jay-Z in the Illuminati because no one's ever seen success like his."
Haters could be hard to hear over Diggy's screaming fans, many of them young girls. And one of those questions on youn fans' minds: Is Diggy dating Jessica Jarrell, the teenage model and singer? Gossip websites call her his girlfriend.
"That's definitely a rumor," he said. "Jessica Jarrell is one of my best friends. It's flattering. You can't get mad when people are going to make up different rumors. But I'm single."
Diggy said he's spent half a year completing his debut album. The first single, the Pop and Oak-produced "Copy, Paste," is out now, and a second single drops this month. Although he was listening to it before the interview, Diggy wouldn't give up details other than "it has a really dope feature that makes the song incredible."
The Queens, N.Y.-born rapper didn't visit Baltimore growing up, but Diggy lights up when talking about the city, saying there was " a lot of love" when he was here in July for the BET 106 & Park Tour.
That love is something he's getting used to, as his fans become more rabid with each appearance. It makes you wonder: What's the craziest thing he's seen from a fan?
"It's flattering that my fans care so much. They just go wild," he said, before pausing to think of an answer. "I don't know, nothing crazy as of yet. Next interview, man, maybe I'll have something."
If you go
Diggy performs Friday at Pier Six Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Mindless Behavior and New Boyz will also perform. $36.50. Call 410-783-4189 or go to piersixpavilion.com