“Shuggie Diamonds is my ‘singing’ and ‘more soulful’ alter ego, so the title The Diamond Report is based off that. The nickname was given to me by my brother, the late, great Guru. My music is also a form of me dropping jewels; I have always been a diamond in the rough.”
– Big Shug on his new album, The Diamond Report.
Boston rap stalwart Big Shug blends equal parts raw soul and grimy street rap on The Diamond Report, an album that’s bursting with life and character from an emcee who exudes longevity. With decades in the game, the Gang Starr Foundation co-founder continues to sound hungry and passionate with his art, and it’s led to one of his strongest album showings yet.
After delivering smooth vocals on the opening track, Shug hits your ear like a freight train on the bombastic “EMF” that’s produced by longtime collaborator DJ Premier. A lyrical middle-finger to “every motherf*cker” who’s ever doubted or crossed him, the single also received the video treatment from director Myster DL. It puts the focus directly on Shug and his rhymes, and it actually sets the tone for the remainder of The Diamond Report.
At 20 tracks deep, the album plays like a highlight reel of all of Shug’s artistic strengths. On “Doing My Sh*t,” he kicks back and oozes confidence as he croons over the Thir(13)teen-produced instrumental. And then on the Lil Fame-produced “Keep It Cool,” he’s back in bruiser mode alongside M-Dot, B.A.M and International Dreez. Shug also embodies the wise hip-hop sage on several cuts, including standouts “Old Man Rapper” and closer “You Ain’t About It.”
But it’s on the lyrically charged “Stay The Course” that everything hits hardest. With Elevated Music’s snarling beat as his canvas, Shug takes aim at Trump, big ups Colin Kaepernick, and spits rewind-worthy bars like: “I still hustle, that’s how I was raised/ When I started out they said rap was a phase/ 20 years later, I still get paid/ While some of y’all clowns, still get played.”
It’s a powerful reminder of exactly who Shug is, where he comes from, why he’s still here, and why everyone needs to be paying attention. To paraphrase the man himself, it may be 20 years later, but Shug’s pen is as sharp and necessary as ever.