The Diggin’ In The Crates crew is often not mentioned when people are discussing the best New York-based crews, but they could have been. Groups such as The Wu-Tang Clan, Run-DMC and Junior M.A.F.I.A, to highlight a few, are often people’s go-to ensembles because of their prevalence and cultural impact. However, given time, the Diggin’ In The Crates crew could have been much bigger.
Unlike many New York outfits at the time, Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C) was a cross-borough crew with leverage in every part of the city. The legacy of the group is one of hip-hop purity. With no commercial acts or association with the mainstream, the collective aspired to provide hip-hop excellence devoid of record label input and sales-driven sacrifices.
Comprised of rhymers and producers from the Bronx, Harlem and Queens, the crew helped spearhead the sound of East Coast hip-hop in the 1990s. However, it was home to so many legends with such vast potential that keeping the members focused on just posse projects was impossible.
The crew was home to legends such as Fat Joe, Lord Finesse, Big L and Buckwild and was destined for greatness, but members lost focus fast. Headed by the band’s frontman Lord Finesse, D.I.T.C, from the outset, was backed by Wild Pitch Records. This label, in particular, was home to some of New York’s most potent and promising underground acts, including Gang Starr, Ultramagnetic and more. This gave them the platform.
However, one of D.I.T.C’s acts would soon be flung into fame while another was forming a crew of his own. Diggin’ In The Crates housed Big L, who very rapidly rose to prominence in the 1990s. Known nationwide as a lyricist in 1995, the rapper (real name Lamont Coleman) signed a solo record deal with Columbia. This left the artist little time for work with his former collective, as he had a solo album on the way.
Similarly, during the mid-to-late 1990s, Fat Joe was forming his own Bronx-based collective, the Terror Squad, and by 1997, the rapper was primarily working alongside Big Pun, Remy Ma and Cuban Links as opposed to D.I.T.C. Two crew members down and following the death of Big L, Diggin’ In The Crates slowly dissipated with only Fat Joe, Big L and Lord Finesse being names that people still recognise today.
Speaking on the crew and their sound during the mid-90s, the crew’s producer Buckwild told Complex, “We walked to our own beat. Almost every record I did, didn’t sound like what everybody was doing. Like a Premier record or a Pete Rock record or a Dr Dre or a P. Diddy record or whatever.”
The New York collective did release an album. However, it was after the crew’s dissolution and was released in 2000 following the death of Big L the year prior. Entitled D.I.T.C, the 15-track album was released by Tommy Boy Records and featured production from the likes of Buckwild, DJ Premier and Rockwilder. You can listen to the project’s lead single, ‘Thick’ in the video below.