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One of the most beloved hip-hop crews in rap music, D.I.T.C. (an acronym for "Diggin' in the Crates") consists of veteran rappers, DJs, and producers dedicated to the true essence of rap music: original lyrics and strong beat-savvy productions. With their dedication to hip-hop purity, members Showbiz & A.G. (Andre the Giant), Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild, and the late Big L have at least one classic album under their belts. Although they never reached the success of their multi-platinum peers, individually they became successful by maintaining their integrity and earning major respect within the rap community. Lord Finesse (born Robert Hall) is a legendary MC-turned-producer who has produced tracks for Notorious B.I.G. (1997's Ready to Die) and Dr. Dre (1999's Chronic). As a young cocky MC, he would travel to any borough in New York to battle their best rapper and win. He shopped his demo to various record labels and eventually dropped the first of several records, his 1990 classic Funky Technician. The record had a few tracks produced by his good friend Diamond (formerly Diamond D), a former member of the rap group Ultimate Force. One of the oldest members in the D.I.T.C. crew, Diamond got his first whiff of hip-hop DJing for Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation in 1979. In the mid-'80s, he was turntable scratching at late-night park parties, often competing with area top DJs (Showbiz was once his nemesis.) In 1992, this DJ, then a producer, showcased New York City's underground talent and his rap skills on his classic debut Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop. Bronx native Fat Joe became the first Latino rapper in New York to secure a solo deal with a major label with his 1993 debut Representin'. In 1998, his Don Cartagena release went gold (500,000 copies sold). Showbiz & A.G. were the first to adopt the do-it-yourself attitude by releasing their 1992 debut EP, Can I Get a Soul Clap, practically out of the trunk of their cars. Showbiz, a name he stolen from an old Richard Pryor record, pioneered taking an instrumental and looping voices over it. His partner A.G. was known as the Bronx's "punchline" rapper. Through the mid-'90s, he was a prolific producer, producing tracks for primarily underground rap acts. In 1999, A.G. restarted his rap career with his solo CD Dirty Version. Meanwhile, another Bronx native named Buckwild, who once started out as Lord Finesse's apprentice in his production company, started producing tracks around 1994. He later delivered melodic beats for rap heavyweights like Fat Joe, Notorious B.I.G., Big L, Mic Geronimo, and Big Pun. But it was his first at-bat, producing tracks for O.C.'s Word Life in 1994, that established him as a vital producer in the underground rap scene. O.C., one of hip-hop's most energetic lyricists, was an up-and-coming MC before Word Life. After the album's release, he made numerous guest appearances on other D.I.T.C. members' records while maintaining a low profile. The final member of D.I.T.C. was Big L, a lyrically ferocious MC with raps deadlier than a snakebite and mannerisms cooler than the uptown pimp he claimed to be on records. Calling himself the flamboyant (meaning "rich") MC, he dropped his classic 1994 record Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous on Columbia. He was gearing up for a comeback, with a second CD due for release on Rawkus, when he was slain on February 15, 1999. The crew came together later that year for a memorial concert at Trammps in New York (anthologized by a series of CD releases), and recorded a self-titled group record in 2000. ~ Trent Fitzgerald