La The Darkman: Next Movement

Find out how this MC/executive went from a Wu-Tang-affiliate to the president of DJ Drama’s Aphilliates Music Group.

Back in the ’90s, having the “Wu” attached to your name meant automatic authenticity as a diamond-fang-sharp lyricist. Brooklyn, NY native La The Darkman was one of many Wu-Tang affiliates to emerge from the shadows of the Clan’s wings. Whether that shadow did more to obscure some otherwise capable hip-hop artists, or give them far more exposure than they would have had on their own will be a subject of debate for years.

But La The Darkman didn’t wait for legend and lore to determine his legacy. His ominous, esoteric, block-savvy flow was just what true heads were ready for back in the late ’90s. After dropping his debut Heist of the Century independently in 1998 to modest praise, La dipped back in the cut only to emerge recently as a pillar of one of the most formidable hip-hop movements in existence: DJ Drama’s Aphilliates Music Group. Not only is his younger brother, Willie The Kid, the flagship artist for the Asylum-distributed imprint, but La is also tackling the business side as the label’s President. XXL caught up with the Darkman to find out how he went from an affiliate to an Aphilliate.

Everyone originally knows you from your work with the Wu. How did that connection come about?
I was a young cat growing up in Crown Heights and a lot of Wu is from Brooklyn, like RZA, GZA and Dirt. So while they was coming up, I met a guy named Taris and also Divine, who’s RZA’s brother. Divine is the executive producer of all the Wu albums. I met them at the mall once and bumped into them again down south in Tennessee. We started building with them and then doing different things. I been with them since I was 15 years old. Enter the 36 Chambers came, and I saw it grow. I was a baby back then, but then I got my opportunity to drop when I was 18. I dropped in November of ’98. I had my own label with Taris with distribution through Navarre, which just got bought out by KOCH. I was getting $7 an album and pushed 350,000 units. For Navarre, I was their first black music artist.

Your first album dropped in ’98, and now you’re preparing your next album for 2008. What’s changed about La the Darkman in those ten years?
I’m a little more mature. I’m a grown man now. I was always a business man, but now I’m co-founder and president of Aphilliates Music Group. I manage Willie The Kid. I’m the sponsor behind the Gangsta Grillz album. I still love the lyrics and the artform, but I can create a DJ Drama and turn him into an owner, make a Willie The Kid, turn him into an owner. I executive produced the upcoming Willie The Kid album, and that’s my younger brother. So as a grown man, it’s the same flavor, but I got other artists to show I can make a company and turn it into a dynasty, like what Wu-Tang, Rap-A-Lot and No Limit did. I want to make the AMG brand into a dynasty. I got [the AMG] label deal with Grand Hustle/Universal. I executive produced DJ Drama’s album, and I got another label deal for La Embassy Entertainment with Steve Rifkind over at SRC. It’s similar to what RZA did back in the day when he had three or four album deals on the table. I’m the marketing mind behind all this. When you see DJ Drama doing the Pepsi commercials, I set up all of that. I’m there top to bottom.

Are you still affiliated with Wu-Tang?
Yeah, of course. I just had RZA on my radio show the other day. I’m on Method Man’s last album. When you in Wu-Tang, it’s like being a Kennedy. Once you a Kennedy, you always recognized like that. Like Maria Shriver—she a Kennedy. She might have a different last name, but she still a Kennedy.

Still, there seems to be a lot of tension going on within the Wu-Kennedy compound right now.
That controversy is…it’s like when you got brothers and y’all argue sometimes, but you eventually get over it. I just talked to Ghost and RZA and they said it’s all squashed. It was a little quarrel. Once they talked about it, they saw eye to eye. Mixing business with family, sometimes things get misconstrued, but they over it though.

What about Raekwon’s claims that the rest of the Wu is doing an album without RZA?
I don’t believe that would ever happen. At the same time, when I talked to RZA, he said it was cool. He said if brothers wanna have more creativity and do they own thing and not have him on there, he don’t have no problem with that. He was like, “Let them do they thing and get they money.”

On Dead Presidents, your latest mixtape with Willie, you have a song with 50 Cent called “Fast Lane.” How’d y’all connect?
We got the same lawyer, Theo Sedlmayr. Me, him and Eminem use him. He been my lawyer since the ’90s. I been grindin’ for a long time. 50 was grinding for a while before he blew. We both always been the underdog, so when we met, we was feelin’ each others’ styles. Yayo and them, they cool guys to me. They family and they keep it tight. “Life in the Fast Lane” was about two brothers being in the streets and always being the underdog. Also we both been dealing with the greats, with him working under Jam Master Jay, Dr. Dre and Eminem, and me working with RZA, Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. So we went with it.

You’ve also worked with Vanilla Ice in the past. How’d that happen?
I wrote a few songs on his albums. He liked my music and he asked me to come in and write for him. People don’t know, he like the first Eminem. He sold like 20 million something records. He a real cool guy though, and it was a very lucrative deal. The checks was very good for that.

So now you’re with Aphilliates. Were you around for the big raid in early ’07?
I was just leavin the office that day. I was hungry, starving, rushing out the studio to get something to eat and as I leave, I get a call from somebody saying some sheriffs was about to run up in the studio. I was like, Why they coming up in here? We just make music here, ain’t nothin’ goin’ on. I called Drama and told him I heard the studio was about to be raided. He was the same way, like, “For what?” So I turn back around to see if it was real. When I come up the block, I see 40 to 50 cops coming. We saw it from a block away. They thought there was some guns and drugs in there, but it wasn’t nothin’, so they dealt with the mixtapes. That was nothin’. We get checks cut from the labels to do mixtapes. This is promo for them. We going through the court process right now. We got the lawyer who was on the Ray Lewis murder case, so we got the best. I don’t think they knew what mixtapes was, but they took all our masters. They got the masters for the Gangsta Grillz album and the Willie The Kid album. So we had to go back and recreate the music. We got some of the files copied, but we had to go in and make whole new albums.

How involved have you been in the grooming of your brother, Willie The Kid?
It’s crazy, man. Willie already been on stage with the best: 50, Wu-Tang, Big Pun, Clipse, doin’ arenas. I executive produced the Gangsta Grillz album and did it like it’s the Southern version of The Chronic. So Willie’s like the Snoop Dogg of The Chronic. His rhymes is crazy. A lotta music out there been real Jack in the Box, White Castle fast food shit. But we trying to have cats eat like Thanksgiving, like you at big mama’s house. It’s not fast food; It’s more like Cheesecake Factory. It’s food for thought.

You’re pretty much planted in Atlanta right now. Is that what other New York rappers need to do to stay in the game? Head South?
Never that. We still the business men. I’m still looking up to Jay-Z, Diddy and 50. New York artists still gross the most money in hip-hop this year or any year. Don’t get fooled by the hype. The top earners, they from New York, baby. I’m a universal playboy, I go to Los Angeles and play, I go to Houston and play. Biggie played everywhere. He didn’t just play in the neighborhood. We the next movement, like the civil rights movement. If anybody hate on the North, you just wack. If you hate on the South, you wack. Real playboys don’t hate. Just ’cause I’m from Brooklyn don’t mean I can’t go to Atlanta and play, or go to Cali and play. When you real, it’s only the fake ones that got a problem. So cats complaining about the South, you ain’t real.

Still, a lot of artists from the Wu, like Ghostface, have expressed some displeasure with Southern artists. Does that mean he isn’t real?
See, I never heard Ghost talk shit about the South. I never heard him complain about the South. Me and Ghost just left the South. I don’t read the magazines and all that so I never heard him say that. I personally never been a complainer, B, I just make it happen. I still got a crib in New York and a crib in Atlanta. I got an office in New York and I got an office in Atlanta.

  • JAY STONE

    This nigga is fucking garbage but i`m happing thAT nigga is geting money.Leave rap alone you fucking wanksta

    • Nina

      Jay Stone you can’t even spell correctly. How in the fuck are you gone judge the next man’s work? Who the fuck are you and what movement are you making in the music game? First and foremost commend a black man’s work never knock it. AMG pay the fuck attention you bastard.

    • jay

      THAT S AN IGNORANT COMMENT, THIS DUDE IS ONE OF REALEST DUDES IN THE INDUSTRY, DO YOUR HOMEWORK, HOMEBOY IS LYRICAL, WHY DO YOU THINK WU TANGS F**** WITH HIM, GRIMEY DUDE, PEACE OUT TO LA, ONE OF THA HARDEST OUT.

    • joe

      hey jay shut the fuck up go home and ask ya mama for some candy

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    Jay Stone you fuckin idiot u proly younger then 20 years old and never heard of Darkman, dude was a straight beast on the mic and his 1st album was a classic, you need to do research before u hate homey!! also speakin of darkman.. GOD DAMN i had no clue dude was makin moves like that, Good for you and big ups to your Krew kepp getttin that cake nigga….

  • fireforreal

    Your just another hater.La the darkman brought out one of the best wu tang solo albums ever period.He made his paper where he could afford to fall back and not have to bring out something all the time just to make a buck like 90% of the rappers today.Jay stone face it your just a bitch talking shit because your on your period or your a Bow wow and Omarion fan huh ?

  • JAY STONE

    @Freddy(Vega$)
    you faggot i`m old enough to be your grandpops so show some fucking respect.I got this nigga`s album back in the 90 and oh man it`s fucking garbage.He is totally trash.why you think he couldn`t break in when Nas,jay z,tupac,biggie etc where in their prime during the golden age of hiphop.cuz he is garbage

  • b-ease

    I was just thinking to myself the other day, “what the fuck is LA the Darkman doing on the Drama album?” Sounds like a smart dude, i wouldnt call his first joint a classic but it was definetly dope.

    And Jay Stone:

    It’s okay to hate son, but no need to front. You know damn well you 16 and aint never heard of LA before this article.

  • pee

    its never ok to hate! jay stone need to leave comments for the real hip hop heads! la been in the game and can spit! you must be like 16 or 15 talking like you know! bitch azz!

  • JAY STONE

    You fools never seems to amaze me.This nigga is garbage and y`all got fucking emotional and shit.ok is this nigga better than nas,jay z,methodman anyone of them old schools.
    He is wack.

  • JayD

    yo La is ill his new joints are hot too!! check out this video wit willie tha kid http://youtube.com/watch?v=W0uN0w4WjHA i see u nigga keep it real

  • barbarian at the gate

    Now would anyone have the cojones to roll down the street in the kind of candycane gear that La The Darkman is sporting in the above picture?

  • http://XXLMAG.COM J-RIDDICK

    I ROCK JORDANS DUNN GOT ABOUT 13 GUNS LA THE DARKMAN DO THE DAMN THING SON NIGGA NICE DONT SLEEP ON HIM

  • sing sing

    big up to la the darknman thats my favorite mc ever.real deal heist of the century is a classic

  • http://n/a Snug

    Jay Stone you joker..if you really were old enough to know any-fuckin-thing about La..you would have never said that any of those cats you mentioned are ol skool….your a Laaaaaaaame!!!!!!!!!!

  • Shinigami

    We’re talking luchi, knowledge, bitches that go to college……

  • Gonzodagod

    Yo La My Nig u doin it sun fo real, Gun Ru gave birth to that mental, travels upgraded yo attic. Niggas be on here wit that static! That 1st joint is a classic,even better is the business at hand, build god. We blood brothers word 2 BDFB. So faggot niggas Stay of his dick!

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  • bankhead

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DA TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ONLY REASON THESE GARBAGE ASS NIGGAS GET ANY PLAY ON THE RADIO AT ALL IS CUASE OF DRAMA AND RIGHT NOW DRAMA IS FINISH HIS DAMN SELF KHALED DONE KILLED HIM. WILLIE IS GARBAGE AS WELL AS DARK WHOEVER AND THIS IS NOT HATE ITS THE TRUTH LOOK AT THIS NIGGA. MEN NOBODY EVEN KNOW THIS NIGGA FROM WU TANG SO STOP IT HE HAS NO BUZZ OR FOLLOWING IN NO FUCKING SOUTH THESE ARTICLES NEED TO STOP THEY SHHH. THEY BETTER HOPE TI DONT GO TO JAIL OR ITS A WRAP FOR ALL THAT SHH

    • Nina

      Jay Stone you can’t even spell correctly. How in the fuck are you gone judge the next man’s work? Who the fuck are you and what movement are you making in the music game? First and foremost commend a black man’s work never knock it. AMG pay the fuck attention you bastard.
      And Bankhead he is someone your punk ass is commenting. Now get ya money up and maybe you can do something with your life. Stop Hating you niggas talk like bitches shut the fuck up and get off my family dick you bitch ass niggas. You dick head ass haters, can roll with punches or roll in them. Pay the fuck attention to this shit cause they making moves.

  • STAPH

    LA’s album “heist of the century” is awesome. Anybody who likes ill street lyricism and classic wu beats would appreciate it. WORDS OF WISDOM!

  • Fireforreal

    I agree with you snug Jay bitch is just jerkin off to all the hate he has inside he’s really about 18 living in his moms basement pissed because he has a curfew.

  • wallychamp

    yo im glad darkman is still doin his thing. heist of the century is one of the dopest albums i ever bought. anybody who thinks darkman is trash must not really be into lyrics

    plus anytime darkman was featured on somebody elses album like inspectah decks, method man or sunz of man he killed it

    i wish darkman 2 would come out already

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    If you think LA is wack listen to “Calico Flow” (ft/ Willie da Kid) … if you don’t think that shit is straight bananas, go back to listening to Soulja boy.

  • The Boy Fonz Pratt, Hawaii’s Best

    La has been holding it down for a while now!! I recall when he was in chiphers at Tenn. St University; Them Down South Cats didnt know how to take him!!! Shout out to everyone in Nashvegas, TN. Fisk University, TSU, Lishey Ave, Cleveland ST. and Jefferson ST. Pratt Boys for Life!! Ohio Playa (216) Cleveland, OH. “Left the hood for Palm Trees” Fuck Maintaining!!!

  • juanito

    Jay Stone you joker..if you really were old enough to know any-fuckin-thing about La..you would have never said that any of those cats you mentioned are ol skool….your a Laaaaaaaame!!!!!!!!!!

    ^^^^^

    co-sign… these lil raviolis these days dont even realize the old school was over when RUN DMC came out rocking the adidas kicks and tracksuits! jay stoned what do you know about mc coke la rock, threacherous three, kool herc, all that shit? you probably think grandmaster flash was the dude rapping in the “the message” video. next time you got a toothbrush in your hands, dont forget to brush your tongue cause them bacterias be tapdancing on that shit © pretty tone.

    la should be a role model for a lot of these bitter 90s rappers complaining about their sales and the current state of hiphop. keep it live and get busy instead of resting on your laurels.

  • The Boy Fonz Pratt; Hawaii’s Best!

    La has been holding it down for a while!! I recall when he was in chiphers @ Tenn. St. University and then South Dudes didnt know how to take him!! Whats goodie to everyone in Nashvegas, TN. Fisk University, TSU, Lishey Ave. Cleveland St. and Jefferson ST. Pratt Boys for Life!!! Ohio Playa. (216) Cleveland, Oh. “left the hood for palm trees” “Fuck Maintaining”!!

  • geico lizard

    la the darkman went to tennessee state university in nashville so he has alot of respect in the south and he understands there are tight lyricist everywhere in the country he isnt close minded about southern rap like golden arms and havoc of mobb deep. keep grinding darkman you will be on top soon homie.

  • Wu Fan

    La The Darkman is the nigga! Heist of the Century is a fucking gem, good luck finding it, but if you come across it, any hard core wu tang fan will thirst on that shit. Too fucking bad he didn’t follow up with another album, but he always had guest spots on Inspectah Decks, Meth’s albums. That nigga is the truth. I wonder what his sound will be like without much of a wu presence on his new shit.

  • salemcia

    its about time somebody gave la some more shine. i’ve been waiting for that album for a minute and next year, if its anything like ‘heist of the century’, its gonna be another classic. and even if its not, it’s still gonna be good cuz la’s always had that flow and wordplay down pat.

  • The Shogun

    Dude was talking some true shit.

    What kind of man hates on a whole region??

    answer: A muthafucka who ain’t never had shit or ever left his own state, basically, a bum ass dude.

  • shadow

    i thought he was from Grand Rapids,MI

  • Self LordnMasta

    No, he spent time there. Just goes to show a well traveled man is a polished and knowledgable man with depth. If you listen to his album he gave shouts to many different regions. I personally think he is easily top 5 of the Wu and all their affiliates. I think being with Wu-Tang held him back like Street life.

  • http://myspace.com/kinsnspace kinsnspace

    Peace,from the bay!
    la is dope

    come vibe;myspace.com/kinsnspace
    kin camell@imeem.com

  • Latino Heat

    thank you xxl. i was wondering 1)why the fuck la the darkman of all people was on dj dramas album. and 2) where the fuck hes been all these years. his album was dope, not classic but one of the better wu affilliated albums. i just looked on ebay, that shit is selling for $40. i bought mine for like a dollar when the wherehouse was going out of business a few years ago. definetly worth copping if your lucky enough to come across it. dude is obviously a smart business man too. he was getting this independant money back in the late 90′s when that shit was looked down on, except out here in the bay where they been doing it for years. congratulations to LA and much continued success.

  • http://www.myspace.com/cdub274274 CDub in Gun Rule

    All I got to say is that some people hate so hard, and the only thing they mad is that they aint never went no where. Fuck off haters! LA, you and Willie keep on doin ya thizzle. Big ups to DJ Head and Jon Jelks in the Gun Rule! XXL MAG, keep doin yall thang!

  • Mc604

    LA, had no clue he was gettin it. his 1st album in 98 still echos clearly.pz the hiest of the century

  • Tell The Truth

    This Nigga is Lying his ass-off everyone in the industry knows that another guy managed the Aphilliates for 4yrs when they got rich!!! He is a real behind the scenes dude that negotiated Drama’s deal at Atlantic/Grand Hustle and Cannon’s pub deal. This nigga was sleeping on Cannon’s Couch!!! LOL…

  • pharoah

    you are both right hawaii’s best and geico lizard la did go to TSU. I remember when they used to pass out his fliers at fisk university around 94 or 95. do yall remember that wu-tang redman show. Onyx was there too.

  • http://wutangcorp ALLAH

    La is the most slept on MC ever. Dude still is in ur face straight up no games, its a simple but complicated style he is mad nice. He gotta be nice considering he gets practically no airplay, yet he getting money from his talents

  • nello

    allah, LA is nice but that are still way more talented dudes than him that get no love if any.

  • bahama Bloodline

    LA is a fucking tigh rapper dog. I live in the Bahamas and i bump the nigga shit in the back of my Explorer all day. “Nigga i gat wat you need gat wat you need the coke…..get the cheese like macaroni.” Dawg cant wait till ya drop.

    242 baby.

  • http://www.picturemedia.co.za Jj@picturemedia.co.za

    The La’s invinsible..

  • ABONA-BLE-FLO-MAN

    YO CHECK THIS OUT I AM FROM THE SAME HOOD AS LA AND KNOW HIM PERSONALLY/MY DUDE BEEN DOIN THIS SHIT FOR A MINUTE I BET IF YA OUNKASS GOT ROBBED AND STRIP DOWN IN YA TOUGHEST HOOD. THEN U WOULD KNOW WHO HE IS. DO YA HOMEWORK CAUSE WHEN HE COME OUT IT WON’T BE A SURPRISE TO SOME OF US. I LIVE IN GA NOW SAME AS HIM TRYING TO MAKE MOVES INSTAED OF STAYING STEADY IN ONE STATE///KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK LAY AMG FOR LIFE////S.W.A.M.P.

  • The Truth

    Wow, this is a lying ass nigga!!! Orlando McGhee managed the Aphilliates for 3 yrs, did Drama’s deal at Grand Hustle Atlantic build both of their radio shows and gave them the idea for AMG as a label. What happened the replacementz? La was sleeping on Don Cannon’s couch homeless…