It takes intense pressure and unrelenting heat to make a diamond, and it took those same elements, along with talent, business savvy and perseverance, to produce one of hip-hop’s most promising, Diamond. The former member of Atlanta’s crunk-hop group, Crime Mob (“Knuck if You Buck”), first set off alarms at the age of 14 with her bold and gritty street rhymes, which made her a standout talent. Once the group disbanded in 2007, Diamond struggled through a period where she saw her solo deal with Warner Bros. Records fall apart and realized she had to start all over again.

With her feature on the all-star female remix to Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Diamond has proven that she is no longer the rambunctious young femcee who boldly rhymed about violence and acting a fool. She’s stepped up her image and bars as she prepares for the forthcoming release of her untitled solo debut on Battery/Jive and all ears are waiting for her next major move. caught up with Diamond about how she kept it 100 on everything from squashing beef with former rhyme partner Princess and the status of Crime Mob’s Killa C’s attempt to clear his name of child molestation charges. One of the main reasons why artists change labels is because they are seeking more creative freedom. Have you found that with this new deal?

Diamond: The people that work for the label seem genuine. They were excited and I haven’t had people excited about me for a long time without buzz or anything going on… So to see them treat me like this with nothing going on to the outside world means that when things go the way I want it to go it will be great. They’re not so controlling like my other labels. They trust me and my team to do our thing… Everything is finally now how I want it. I don’t feel caged. When I feel free and not so pressured I’m at my best. So I’m real excited because the state of females in hip-hop is really fragile now. I have another approach at it and this time there is no stopping since I got the right team and label.

Recently you’ve said that Being a strong role model for females is important to you, but your new single, “Lotta Money,” celebrates a gold-digging woman which for many doesn’t exactly fit in with the empowerment theme. How do you explain that contradiction?

To me, this record is way better than the old me telling a person, “Slice a bitch in the face, I’m gonna kick your ass or don’t fuck with me.” I performed those old verses about beating ass and shit for kids. Now when you hear the music it moves you in a way that’s not a violent way. Yeah, I’m speaking a story about a chick who is messing with a dude with certain standards but do you want me to tell them don’t mess with him if he ain’t got X, Y and Z and to settle for less? It’s not like I’m telling a woman to be a gold-digger but who wants to mess with someone who is not equal or above to what they’re doing? That is everyday life and some won’t say it but I will speak on it. Dudes say all kinds of stuff but with females they get criticized for certain messages.

Women like Kat Stacks are also getting heavily criticized and there are so many stories of women exploiting male celebrities and vice versa. What do you see as the main cause of creating this dog-eat-dog dynamic between men and women in hip-hop?

People have evil intentions and some dudes might mistreat a chick but you also put yourself in that predicament. Nobody is putting no gun to your head telling you be in my video or come throw yourself at me. You have a choice. I know that wouldn’t be me. I’m not no weak-minded type of person and you not gonna just get over on me and dog me out. If a man likes you he likes the chase and not women who are easy. So if you do whatever they think you only mess with them for who they are and gonna get a check. So the joke is on you.

Many people considered you the Crime Mob member with the most potential for solo success. Looking back, do you think your departure is what disbanded the group or were there other issues at play that would have eventually ended the group?

I think there were other issues. We all had a lot of growing up to do. We were all growing up so young and so fast and we had personal issues. The boys were in and out of trouble, me and the other girl were dealing with people we though were out friends and that created drama. We still came together for our music ’cause that’s how we made a living so we had to do it. I think what really messed things up was when me and Princess were taking off so fast and were told to leave the boys alone. We were interested but didn’t want to leave the boys behind because that was our family. Plus, our personal relationships weren’t even clicking and shit just shot to hell.

You and Princess recently reunited. How did that come about?

There have been times people stole money from us and our moms would get the scoop and call each other and we would have to come together anyway. [Our mothers] most important thing was the best interest of their kids and not getting taken advantage of and having the industry creating monsters out of their kids strung out on drugs. So we had a meeting about some important documents over money owed to us. They locked us in a room and made us sit down and talk to each other. They asked us why we hate each other and we were like we don’t hate each other. So much time went by that it was like why are we mad each other. We grew up in so many ways and I feel like that was important for us to have time apart.

Is that how Princess ended up in the “Lotta Money” video?

My assistant wanted some surprise people to come through for my new video and I was nervous and didn’t think nobody would show up. He came to me about Princess and I thought it was a good idea and forgot about it. The day of the shoot we were running late and she hit me on the phone and said she was gonna leave. I was getting off the exit and was like, “Don’t leave.” So when we saw each other it was a big moment. We got good morals and it made us be women and put things aside and say bygones is bygones. Life is too short.

Do you see yourself collaborating once again with Princess?

I definitely see us featuring on each other’s music at some point but not right now. I have this long journey I’m on to prove myself as a solo artist and I don’t want to confuse my fans. I went through so much to get here and I’m not where I want to be. So I want to ace this and then go back and get my feet wet in something else.

Are you still in touch with the other Crime Mob members?

Yes, the boys, I used to talk to them more than Princess. Now we all talk amongst each other same amount as we did. I don’t talk to Killa C as much. I know that he is trying to get his life together and get all that stuff expunged off his record. He wants to have another retrial because when those charges for child molestation were made he was 14 and had a public defender and you know how that goes. So he has to close the chapter on that and for himself so that he can move on to do whatever it is he wants to do.

Do you think that you and Princess reuniting is something that can send a message of unity to the other female rappers in hip-hop?

Yeah, it’s important and that’s why I try to work with everybody. I did something for Trina and Jacki-O. It doesn’t matter if you’re hot or not, I will still support. What if my hotness dies down and you could be hot at the time and might could help me out. So you scratch my back and I will do the same to yours. Women can’t be so emotional and have to be more business oriented. Once we get past that we can take over. Women are powerful and I don’t think men understand how powerful we are. —Souleo