Everybody has to get their start, but independent artists don't wait for it. Burnaby, B.C.'s Lenny Diko is one of these artists who refuse to simply stand by and allow the industry to govern who gets to live off of their passion. MVRemix shared a few words with the rapper/entrepreneur.
MVRemix: What's your first memory of Hip Hop?
Lenny Diko: Ah, I'd have to say chillin’ with my cousin and listening to Biggie Smalls’ “Ready To Die”... I quickly got into bumpin’ some other gangster rap after that as well and listened to a little bit of it here and there... The first record I copped was actually Wyclef Jean's “The Carnival.” I remember having that on repeat for pretty much an entire year. I think I was around 14/15 then... I'm originally from a small town in the interior of the province, I was brought up on Country and Rock so my hip hop memories probably seem relatively "late" to some heads... I listen to everything though, always have always will.
MVRemix: For those who don't know about you, tell us a little about yourself...
Lenny Diko: Well, the names Lenny Diko - now I've been messin’ with hip hop probably since the first year I got out of high school, so that’s about 5/6 years, and was involved in music all of my life. I’m a business man first, an artist second but I never let the business compromise the artist you know? Most people in the local scene probably hadn't heard of me until about a year ago because that was when I think I reached where I currently want to be as an artist and started putting out music that I backed 100%. I run an indy record label here in Vancouver called "Up In Your Basement Records." We dip into everything in the scene. I love doing shows, every aspect of them, from setting them up and flyering, to performing, its my new found passion.
MVRemix: Now you know how to play a variety of instruments, was this a choice on your part or was it more so your family's encouragement?
Lenny Diko: [laughs] At first I'll admit I was forced too do it, actually no, the entire time I was learning music theory and playing instruments I was being forced to by the parents. Believe it or not, Diko was a pretty good soccer player back in the early years of high school. That was my main focus, but of course, sat down on a computer, got into other hobbies, dropped music - in that sense - and sports, then started focusing on music again. I hated it then, but I'm thankful now. Being able to read music and having a good background in music theory helps me a lot now. I was able to quickly jump into the whole mixing/mastering game and I take part in a lot of the production of my songs as well.
MVRemix: What prompted you to start rapping and set up your own studio?
Lenny Diko: I couldn't sing. [laughs] Nah, I remember I started writing raps and songs in high school and I'd e-mail them or show my buddies, and I even dropped some pretty dope drunken freestyles and everyone was like, “What?” But it just sort of happened. I started off with mediocre equipment and it just wasn't good enough, before I knew it I was making pretty good music, getting some props and networking like crazy. Just kinda progressed, started working with people, needed a place to record, etc. I've been obsessed with recording my voice since I was about 4 years old though. I have cassettes of me singing/reciting rhymes when I was just a little guy!
MVRemix: Tell me about "BoothCamp"
Lenny Diko: Its actually changed; my LP is now tentatively titled "Mover and Shaker." I've been working on it for about a year – it’s soundin’ dope. I'm really comfortable with my style and flow now, and the production from my crew is sounding insane.
MVRemix: Is the record complete?
Lenny Diko: Definitely not, I've recorded about 30 tracks so far and plan on doing about 30 more before I start picking and choosing which ones will make the album.
MVRemix: How long did it take to record?
Lenny Diko: If I'm not working or doing hip hop business, I'm writing/rapping. There was a good 4-5 months where I was writing and rapping easily for 5-10 hours a day solid.
MVRemix: What about featured guests?
Lenny Diko: So far I've worked with my homie Linguistics from Cali, he’s part of a crew called the Live Manikins. We brought them up on tour last summer, and they are coming back up again in July. I recorded a track with Moka Only, and my homeboy Lex is all over the CD. I'm still working on a few more collabos, will most definitely have Aria Silenced, S.L.U.G. from the Repeat Offenders, and hopefully a few other local cats.
MVRemix: Tell me about the concepts...
Lenny Diko: Mover and Shaker: "a person who wields power and influence". Straight up, I'm a hard working business man, and an artist at the same time. I make things happen and I manage a crew/fam that’s about 20 deep right now. And everyone in my crew is making moves. Most of the concepts are relating to working hard, thinking out of the box, and being an entrepreneur. I've said it a few times, if you dig underground hip hop and were one of those kids that had lemonade stand as a kid you will relate to a lot of what I write about. I don't touch too much on the most common subjects like battle rhymes, love, or material things like bling and rims. I think that covers it for the most part, have a listen.
MVRemix: Which song took you the longest to do? Why?
Lenny Diko: The Moka collabo took the longest to do so far... Though DJ Moves had the beat done for me in about like an hour, Moka co-produced in probably less then another hour and both of our verses were laced in less then a week. I got my homegirl in T-dot to do a hook and verse for me. Priya is her name, look her up, and the wait was also most definitely worth it. It's probably one of my favorite tracks that I've done to date, not just because I've looked up to Moka forever, but the beat is so raw and underground and then she gave it this easy listening catchy appeal. Really came together nice. Look out.
MVRemix: Tell me about Up In Your Basement records and how it started.
Lenny Diko: I started Up In Your Basement Records way back when I started messin’ with recording. It went through a few name changes that I'll never reveal again! Those that supported me back then know though and probably still have some of the merch. Keep it locked up! But, basically it’s a crew of about 20 artists in the 604 area comin’ together, doing shows, supporting each other, workin’ on getting paid, etc... I pretty much manage everything, but everyone has their role, and we all try to do as much as we can to support one another. The greatest thing is that we all have way different vibes. But, when we come together on tracks and at shows it’s really amazing how fresh it is.
MVRemix: Who's on your roster?
Lenny Diko: For emcees we have myself, Aria Silenced, Lex, Kid Lithium, Logical, Keefor, RC and his group the Idealists, and a crew out in Chilliwack that goes by the name B.L.O. I have a tech team, a street team, and some help on some of the more procedural business tasks. Production wise, we work with Ozziechan, LTS, DJ Redworm and Ephekz.
MVRemix: Your logo revolves around a gas mask - what inspired that imagery?
Lenny Diko: Actually it was just recently created by my buddy out in the Okanagan Obstacle. I said I needed a logo, he said give me some info to vibe with, then bam - we had the new logo! It actually represents us pretty well. I never personally got into painting myself but I do respect the local scene and artists. I know half of the artists on the label do it up so it’s all good. It mostly just looks cool though, I won't front.
MVRemix: What's the next scheduled release? Can you give me some details on it...
Lenny Diko: Well if there’s one thing we all know its that in the hip hop world nothing is for sure and things always changed, but you can look out for my second solo LP "Mover and Shaker", Logical and I just released an EP called "Livin' Large", and we are going to be expanding on that and releasing another EP with some added members. I know Aria Silenced is working on a few collabo EP's down in Kentucky right now, she moved there to work on music. Basically everyone in the crew is working on either a mixtape or an EP/LP as we speak. The last thing is "Project 604" which is a mixtape I set out to do bringing a lot of artists from around the 604 together but there’s been some difficulties with that, I won't go into them just yet as it is still on my budget for 06 and on my schedule but I'm not looking to spark beef if any of ‘em catch this. Oh, I'm also releasing a Linguistics of the Live Manikins EP under UIYB as well. Should be ready for sale soonage.
MVRemix: What do you think of the current Vancouver/Burnaby Hip Hop scene?
Lenny Diko: Well first off as far as I'm concerned there is no real hip hop scene in Burnaby. As far as I know I am the only emcee doing anything. I could be wrong there, I know there’s a lot of emcees working on good music up here but I don't think anyone is releasing anything. There are some DJ residencies up in the Metrotown area at the clubs, but I don't hear about too many emcees. Don't get me wrong, I know some b-boys up here, some beat boxers, and some emcees; they just aren't pressing material yet. Hopefully they will get there soon, and if your out there and reading this get in touch with me!
As far as the Vancouver scene... I'll just give props to the peeps out there working hard and handling their business, you know who you are. And those of you releasing records on CDR's, you know who you are as well! I guess I could say we all hope the media would start to help us out a bit more and promote the dope music coming out of this city, but everyone just needs to keep working and make it so the general public in the 604 has no reason not to know who you and your fam are! Props to the crews in the city that are coming across professional and handling their business well. I respect that everyone doesn't feel everyone else’s music, but I respect more that different groups can work together and put out dope product. I could easily spark unneeded "beef" by rambling on more and there's really no need. The scene’s diverse and there's a lot of dope music coming out of it.
MVRemix: What about your thoughts on the Canadian scene as a whole?
Lenny Diko: From what I've read, heard, and spoken to people who I've met from other places in Canada it seems that this countries hip hop scene is full of these small "hip hop pods" or "communities." Some places "dopest emcee" in my opinion don't even compare to a lot of emcees in Vancouver, where as in some places like T-dot the professionalism of a lot of cats is really inspiring, and the low over high quality music ratio seems to be less, or at least there’s just more dope cats working their business angles correct. I think we have it pretty good with Factor and Grants, but I'm only saying that because I haven't applied yet and been denied 10 times. I feel music from every province and I'm pretty content with it. I think a lot of cats are hoping to get signed to Majors in the U.S. I could see it happening, but from knowledge of the past I suggest everyone just focus on your own business game and try to get out there as much as possible. I know that’s what I'm doing.
MVRemix: What is your main goal with music?
Lenny Diko: I want to eat off of this ish! And I eat a lot! [laughs] Nah, mainly to support myself completely with music, put out dope music, stay independent and travel the world...
MVRemix: A la "Fight Club," "If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight?"
Lenny Diko: That country singer from here, Aaron Pritchett. I hope you read this man. [laughs]
Lenny Diko: A couple years ago he was at a Tim Horton's some of my fam and friends were at and he was acting like an idiot. Well his buddies were.... Wait, this question probably wasn't supposed to be answered seriously was it? [laughs] The truth to the story is pretty funny and embarrassing but it’s all good.
MVRemix: Do you reckon you'd win?
Lenny Diko: Sure.
MVRemix: Do you have any non-musical endeavours you're involved in? Writing in another form, other business practices...
Lenny Diko: Only one that comes to mind right now is a clothing line that me and a few homies are starting up called "Vansterdam"... you can check that out at www.vansterdam.com, its been an ongoing project for a couple years now, but we should have some merch released by this summer.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Lenny Diko: Check out my music and tour dates at http://www.myspace.com/lennydiko and info on the rest of the fam and stuff like at at www.upinyourbasement.com or www.uiyb.com - word to my man jtea who does all my serious techie stuff, and thanks to everyone who sat and actually read this! I should holla at my sponsors here too, they have been helping me put on some dope shows. RedRum, Union Clothing, Vansterdam, and SkeetMag. And of course, thanks to MVRemix for this!