Smitty: The Diamond Prince

O ne year ago, Smitty released his single “Diamonds on My Neck.” Though it promoted an album that’s still unreleased, the knocker affirmed a buzz that the Miami native, born Varick Smith had been building for five years. Still on a journey that paired him with Dr. Dre, P Diddy, and Jay-Z for different periods, […]

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ne year ago, Smitty released his single “Diamonds on My Neck.” Though it promoted an album that’s still unreleased, the knocker affirmed a buzz that the Miami native, born Varick Smith had been building for five years. Still on a journey that paired him with Dr. Dre, P Diddy, and Jay-Z for different periods, Smitty has fought to develop his career as he saw fit – as an artist and entertainer that could not be kept in a corner.

The single may’ve pulled Smitty into the limelight. However, the 26 year-old today emphasizes that his rhyme content will consist of much more than just jewelry appraisal. As the finishing touches are put to his J Records album, Miami-based Counterflow Recordings has joined Smitty in releasing The Voice of the Ghetto. The indie release features Kanye West and Scarface, with production from Hi-Tek, 9th Wonder, and Buckwild. Like the great-ones of New York, Smitty intends to speak to the masses on several levels. In between the dance-floor and the library, there are the streets, and that’s where Smitty says you’ll find him. You have a very interesting album title, Life of a Troubled Child. Can you give a glimpse into your life so that they may connect with you and your songs?

Smitty: I would never describe my upbringing as being terrible. It was not a horrible experience in the least bit. I have always had a supportive family who cares about me, and has encouraged me to want more out of life than what the streets had to offer. However, my life was no crystal stair [either]. I had my share of struggle that has helped to shape me into a very humble man. I saw many things that could have destroyed me as a person, but only helped to make me stronger. I saw poverty up close and personal. I saw people whose lives were destroyed by drugs and prostitution. Yet [looking back], I would not change a single thing about it. It is for all of this that I named my record, Life of a Troubled Child. It is an album that gives an inner look into the life of a person like many men and women who could have succumbed to the pressures of life, but persevered and made it. What about the single then, “Diamonds on My Neck”?

Smitty: “Diamonds on My Neck,” while it was a hot club banger, barely touches the service to how deep I get on my upcoming release. You were a journalism student at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. What made you decide to study journalism of all subject areas? Why did you not finish?

Smitty: First of all, I would like to send a big shout out to all of the HBCU’s and those attending. Yes, I did attend Florida A&M University from 1997 to 2000. I originally went to school to study sound engineering. However, they did not offer that course selection, so I kind of fell into journalism. It was a way for me to see my way into the industry. Journalists are very important to launching the careers of many people from politicians to artists, and they hold a lot of power in their hand. I was a poor writer before I went to FAMU, but journalism perfected my writing. Although I did not have a chance to finish, I am going back to school. College definitely opened my eyes to see that the world was a much bigger place than I ever knew. I am very grateful for the experience, because it gave me the motivation to pursue my dream of being an artist. So you leave school and what came next?

Smitty: When I came home that summer, I knew that I could not stay around my house and do nothing. I knew I was not a nine-to-five type of dude who be happy and complacent with just making some money. I had to try to make it in the industry. I knew I wanted to be an artist, and I was going to go hard at the goal. Again, my surroundings did not allow for failure, and I refused to be a has-been. Therefore, I packed myself up and went out to California. I chose California since New York is full of people who want a chance at stardom. L.A. called me, and I went out there. What was it like to met Dr. Dre on the set of The Wash?

Smitty: My first meeting with Dre was through my friends C-Love and Charlie, as they told Dre about me and how I wanted to be an artist. Dre tells them to have me come to the set. I literally waited for him about 15, 16 hours. I will have to admit for the first time in my life, I was nervous about the encounter. I had butterflies and everything. I finally spit for him. Two weeks later, I was in the studio with him. Dre put me up in an apartment. He explained to me that I was a future priority as he was working with Truth Hurts and on the Detox album. I completely understood what the situation was, and was just happy to be there. If you were a part of Dr. Dre’s camp, how did Puffy come into the fold?

Smitty: I was staying out there in California, working with Aftermath and Dre. Meanwhile, I am generating a little bit of a buzz. Again, C-Love and Charlie advocated for me on my behalf. They tell Puffy about how much talent I had during his visit for the taping of Jay Leno, and he wanted to meet me. A few days later, I flew to New York and began working with Puff at Bad Boy. I was an instrumental part of songs such as “Shake Ya Tailfeather” featuring Nelly & Murphy Lee from the Bad Boys 2 Soundtrack and B2K’s “Bump, Bump, Bump.” That was a major jump. Were you at all worried about how people would look at you since you were first put on by Dr. Dre?

Smitty: Let it be known that I have a deep respect for Dre. However, it was a situation where I knew that I would not necessarily have the opportunity to do what it is that I would like to do, and that was to be an artist. Meeting with Puff only bought me a few steps closer to being the artist that I have always wanted to be. This is a business at the end of the day. Nothing is personal. So then came your try at Roc-A-Fella…

Smitty: Again, C-Love and Charlie Mack were meeting with Jay-Z. They talked me up so much that he wanted to hear me spit a verse. Since I was out in LA at the time, they called me up on the phone and I spit a verse for him. Two weeks later, I came out to New York to go in the studio with him at Baseline. He explains that he was interested in me. At the same time, I was a member of Face Mob – a group consisting of the legendary Scarface, Big Gee, Young Malice, and would be produced by up and comer, Jazze Pha. Face Mob was to also be signed to Roc-A-Fella, and while that was a cool situation, I knew deep down inside that I still wanted to make an impression by being a solo artist. You have had your share of “almost” and “could have” situations. How did you feel once you were finally signed to J Records?

Smitty: After all that has happened, I had an incredible buzz surrounding me. I was finally beginning to be noticed for the artistry that I exhibited beyond the writing. I was courted by a few labels including Bad Boy Records. However, I signed with J, because Clive Davis showed me the most genuine love. He understands what it takes to make an artist successful. He believes in artist development, but he also believes in actually putting you out an artist. Everything that has happened to me has only made me a stronger person, and if I had to do it all again, I would do things the exact same way. What can the listeners expect to hear from Smitty? What makes your sound unique and all your own?

Smitty: I must reiterate, “Diamonds on My Neck” was a commercial hit. It was a song to create a buzz for me. It served its purpose because it provided me with some exposure. However, it does not show the true depths of who I am as a writer or an artist. Listeners should look forward to the release of the single “Ghetto” featuring appearances by Kanye West and Scarface [on Smitty’s Counterflow Recordings album The Voice of the Ghetto]. I want the listeners to know that I have something of value to say. I feel that artists do not make songs that real people can relate to. Everyone will always have their opinions, but I tried to touch all that I could. I make music for the love of Hip-Hop. How do you look at the Southern takeover that’s going on in Hip-Hop right now?

Smitty: I represent the Dirty South all day, everyday. I must say that the last shall be first. It is time that the South has written its own chapter in the book of rap history. Back in the day, rappers from the South were not given their respect. They were often seen or thought of as having little to no lyrical content. However, I looked to some of my inspirations such as: Scarface, The Geto Boys, 8 Ball & MJG, 2 Live Crew, Outkast, and Jam Pony Express, and they always had a message in their music regardless of what it discussed – from poverty to sex. I am glad to see that lyricists like T.I., Ludacris, and Jeezy are doing their thing. It will spin back around to the East eventually, but it will make everyone look at the region a little differently. Now, when we battle, it will not be about where you are from but more so what you have to say. New York started it all. You have to respect it for what it is.