Consider your resumé and then take a look at Diggy Simmons'. An accomplished rapper, singer, model, and actor, the 23-year-old Simmons didn't just start yesterday, either. At 17, he released his first album, Unexpected Arrival. The year before, he was named an XXL Freshman. He's also demonstrated his acting talents with his role as Doug on the acclaimed comedy series, Grown-ish. The son of Run DMC's Joseph Simmons, his ambition is seemingly boundless. His second album, 'Lighten Up' drops today. We talked to Simmons about what he's learned since his debut, his thoughts on current rap, and coping with OCD.

Author’s note: This interview was conducted on Wednesday, November 7.

Your album comes out on Friday. How are you feeling?

I feel good. I always feel like any time I have to do something like a big performance or releasing an album, the nerves don't kick in until the moment right before so they're not there yet. So I'm just excited.

Do you think it'll maybe kick in tomorrow or Friday morning?

Yeah, probably tomorrow afternoon it'll start getting really real.

What sort of topics do you address on this album?

Something that I wrote actually on my Twitter before really summed it up a lot, the album has many themes, but journey is a big one. How you approach yours, how you come out of trauma, and you champion yourself and make yourself feel good no matter what part of your journey that you're in. We hit those low points. They don't feel so good when we've seen higher points or better times. A big part of it is as an adult, me learning that there're peaks and valleys to this life thing, and how to navigate through them, that's a big thing. Self-love is another theme that's explored in this album. It's like overthinking yourself or overthinking your process of what you do, what you love. Just trusting yourself and loving yourself.

On that note, I'm curious about the song ‘It Is What It Is.’ How did that come about?

So that goes hand in hand with that theme that I was saying of journey and self-love, that has a lot of it all in that song. Being able to say it is what it is. Not overthinking whatever it is that you want to explore or what you want to do, not thinking too much about an end result. You're thinking, “What if it doesn't work, what if people don't get it” Having to be able to say, “Look, I enjoy doing this," "I love doing this," "Whatever happens, happens". I'm going to do this for myself, it is what it is.

Do you try to stay in the moment?

That's the thing, that's a big thing. I kind of came to the conclusion that a big part of anxiety and maybe the biggest part is thinking into the future too much. You know? Or being in past tense and thinking about, "I shouldn't have done that" or "I wish this didn't happen". That doesn't really work. Being in the present moment is the most key to life, I feel.

What have you learned since releasing Unexpected Arrival six years ago?

So much, especially for the fact that when I released Unexpected Arrival, I was 17. That's like the real transitional period in your life where you're going from kid to adult, and now I'm 23. That's two completely different people. And what I speak about on this album has a lot to do with what I said, that's a lot of what I learned is, how to control my mental and just kind of getting out of my own way in order to be the best person that I can be. And I think just being around other people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different backgrounds period, how different people grew up, just learning sympathy for people and hearing people's stories gives you a different outlook on life as you grow up.

Definitely. Can you tell a little bit about what type of people you've met?

I feel a lot of it comes from people in music, whether it be people that you tour with, you just hear about, "Yo, it's like this back home." People that you just encounter every day, the fans, hearing their experiences. I feel like it's just been a big part of my growth to see what other people have endured and what other people have lived through and lived life.

Because you did grow up in a pretty privileged background, correct?


And was that something you were aware of at the time? Or was it eye-opening when you realized how different other people grow up?

I was definitely aware. I was definitely aware, I think what I knew is that it made me more thankful for what I have for sure. And at the same time, there's just a certain sympathy that you have for all people, because everybody has that thing they're trying to get past, right? That thing that may have them caught up, dramas, family situations, or mental situations, people have things that they're trying to progress from. And I think that's just something I have more of a sympathy toward.

You have been very involved with fashion. How do you decide which brands to work with?

I have to see what the project is. I have to see if it makes sense with my messaging, what I believe in, what I want things to look like, and be like, aesthetically. Course I have to like the brand, I have to like the clothing or the fragrance or whatever it is. I have to enjoy it. So I just judge it based on genuine like for the brand.

What's a brand that you haven't worked with yet, but you would love to?

I love Dries van Noten. He's great. I'm a big fan. Burberry’s doing great things...There’s some really sick brands out there, contemporary and high-end, that I'm a fan of.

Let's talk about acting, because Grown-ish season two is coming up, right?

Yes, in January.

And I hear you're also in a short film?


Can you talk about both of those?

So Grown-ish really exciting. It's been so funny, so much fun on set. We have the best cast. I think it’s season one but way better, even funnier. We just keep exploring those scenes that just relate to younger people, whether it be dating, or whether it be just growing pains. That's what the show shows and you fall in love with these people even more I feel like in this season. That's exciting. The short film, can't say too much but it's a political film, somewhat. But I think it’s gonna pull at the heartstrings. It's really gonna make people think and feel for what's going on right now in the country. It'll be out in 2019.

How do you feel about the impact of shows such as Grown-ish on society?

I think it's great. Like I said, people obviously love television to the fact that it’s relatable and you have these characters that you fall in love with. So that's one element that you get to connect to a family or a group of friends. You get to see them dissect what it is that going on in society. So I think it’s great to keep the conversation in every fashion rather it be social media, everyday life, television. I think that issues need to be discussed to have more possession. That's just how things work. I think shows like Grown-ish are incredible.

Do you ever have difficulties with balancing different roles such as music, acting and modeling?

It just so happens that I don't do always both at the same time. I mean if it calls for it, it does. But I do like to hone in on whatever it is that is the focus at the moment, so I can focus on it. So, when I do I honestly just have to do it and make time for each. So be like “Okay, today's the day that I'm gonna write or be in the studio, today's the day that I should film so I'm gonna make sure that I'm paying attention to my lines and what I have to know.” So you have to make time.

What do you think of the current state of rap?

I think the current state of rap is great. There's a lot of diversity, I think. People look at more guys and they consider it to be mumble rap, and which I don't like that saying, I think it’s dismissive. But I think it’s a moment in time. There's so many subgenres in rap, and that's why it’s so cool because we're seeing it evolve and there's still guys who, if you're a fan of rap or fan of people who are super lyricists, they exist. There's guys who are rapping like that at a very high level. So I like the fact that there's so much diversity.

When did you first realize you wanted to rap?

14 years old. I just started off for fun. I was in my bedroom, opened GarageBand on my Mac. I was like “Okay, I'll do this for fun, I have some things that I want to say” and I showed my friends and they're like, "Dude this is good, put it out." I put it out and before I knew it, I began to build a base I didn't think it was gonna happen like that, but it did.

How far have you come since you were 14?

I don't get the time to look back much, but yeah I have to being, whatever, just in my bedroom to now, I have songs that people know when I perform in concert. It’s a crazy concept, but I'm just thankful that people have wanted to listen, and that people have connected with the music. Really thankful.

You also deal with OCD. Correct?

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

How has that affected you?

It’s a part of the reason why I ended up taking some time off, I feel like in the later years, so probably more like the past two to three years, it's been a thing because OCD isn't just a cleaning disorder, someone being like a super germaphobe or something, or having to touch a doorknob. That's one thing, but people have it mentally as well to where they overthink everything and that happens to be me, and when you're in a creative process, it hinders it because you don't see yourself, so it's a practice. Like with anything else that you're trying to get past. It’s a struggle, so to speak, but I'm learning to live with it, and not to let it beat me, and I'm gonna beat it and that's it.

Do you have any plans for after this album?

Yeah, I'm gonna drop another project for the first few months of the year, 2019.

Cool. Will it be another album, or something else?

I'm not sure what it will be exactly, but it will be a project.

Okay, cool.

Yeah. So I'm excited for that. I get to start working on it soon.

Nice. And besides that, just what are your hopes for 2019?

To put out more music, perform. Look forward to seeing the fans, and see their reactions to this new music, and how it’s touched them and made them feel. What else? To travel more, whether it be for music, or fashion, or acting. And yeah, just to expand on everything that I've done through 2018.