The last couple of years have seen a new wellspring of female talent invade hip hop’s male-dominated inner circles. You’ve got Nicki Minaj reaching pop superstar status — with all the huge contracts and pointed criticism that entails. Then there are upstarts like Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks, who’ve had the hype machine buzzing with their viral videos and new record deals over the past year.
But somewhere in between is Diamond. Though just 24, she’s a veteran — her former crew Crime Mob’s hit “Knuck If You Buck” came out eight years ago. With long-bolted-shut doors finally opening up for female rappers, the Atlanta native, who’s up for Best Female Rapper at the BET Awards 2012, is set to make good on that spitfire potential she’s showed since she was a teen. First up? Her new mixtape, Street Life, which is slated to hit on July 4. Diamond says she’s lined up some big songs and big guests to live up to the fireworks of her release date.
“I got a lot of features on it: I got Verse Simmons on it, I got Keri Hilson on it,” Diamond tells BET.com. “The music resembles just being free-spirited and life at age 24 for a female. It’s beautiful because I had to find that balance between showing my growth and still keeping it hood, and that sassiness that everybody fell in love with. I love it.”
Diamond plans to follow up on Street Life by finally dropping her long-delayed solo studio debut — backed by two iconic female rappers who paved the way for her. “I've been working with Missy and Eve,” she says of the LP. “I'm actually trying to release the album by the third quarter, but it's looking like its going to be next year, so that's why now we're just releasing Street Life and continuing to build up the buzz into my album.”
But of course, like any enterprising young MC, Diamond’s portfolio is starting to extend beyond music alone. “I have a lipstick deal that I just endorsed, and I'm sure by the time I do press on BET Awards red carpet I can announce who it's with,” she boasts. “I did a television series called The Lick based out of Miami with a lot of great actors — Clifton Powell, just to name one.”
With these big plans ahead of her, Diamond is another reason that 2012 is proving to be a breakthrough year for women in rap. But rather than seeing her peers as competition, Diamond’s happy that female fans finally have a variety of artists and sounds to connect to, whether it’s Nicki’s electro-pop, Azealia Bank’s eclectic house-hop or her own bow-throwing anthems.
“I just think that we need more women, period,” Diamond says. “Whatever [Nicki’s] doing, I'm sure that some females out here can relate to her or whatever message she putting into her music. I'm sure it's other women that feel like, Hey we're over here, we don't relate to y'all — we need somebody else. And that's [where] you have wonderful people like Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea come in. I just think the more the merrier.”
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(Photo: Jeff Daly/PictureGroup)