Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly described “Papa Crazy,” a 1988 song recorded by Diggy Simmons’s father, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, as autobiographical. It is not. This version has been corrected.
In 1988, the legendary rap group Run-D.M.C. released the album “Tougher Than Leather,” which included a track called “Papa Crazy.” On it, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons rhymed about a man who has made a name for himself despite having a father who gave him neither financial nor emotional support. Fast-forward some 25 years and Simmons’s son, 17-year-old Diggy, is rapping about how the support of his father and his uncle, business mogul Russell Simmons, have helped propel his career.
The title of that track — “88,” from Diggy’s debut album, “Unexpected Arrival” — is a reference to one of hip-hop’s finest years. On it, he tells listeners to “Check my family tree / You know my uncle taught Diddy / He turned around and taught Biggie / And Biggie taught Jigga / So you can just imagine what he teachin’ me, [expletive].” Despite that boast, “Unexpected Arrival” is supposed to make everyone see that the young rapper would be a star even without his famous family. Overall, it goes a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Diggy shows political savvy on “Unforgivable Blackness,” clever wordplay on “Tom Edison” and confidence and charisma on every track. He was pigeonholed as a kiddie rapper when he began releasing material a couple of years ago, and Diggy is still strongest when speaking directly to teenage girls, as he does on R&B-hip-hop leaning tracks such as “Do It Like You,” “Four-Letter Word” and the hit “Copy, Paste,” included on the deluxe edition of the album.
For reasons that have to do with respect for his father, his own considerable charm and talent ,and the fact that many rap fans watched him grow up on the MTV reality show “Run’s House,” it’s hard to wish Diggy anything other than luck in figuring out how to honor his lineage without exploiting it. It’s not an impossible feat but, as his father might say, it’s tricky.
“Do It Like You,” “Unforgivable Blackness,” “Tom Edison”