Dirk Dig’s helping hands

The local rapper drops bars while supporting fellow artists

Look at that Sacramento pride.

Look at that Sacramento pride.


Check out Dirk Dig at 9 p.m. Friday, July 1, at Blue Lamp, 1400 Alhambra Boulevard. Tickets are $10-$15. Learn more at www.facebook.com/imfasha.

Local rapper Dirk Dig knows about struggle. His life growing up in Del Paso Heights wasn’t easy, and that pain and hardship is reflected in his music. But he also believes that regardless of what someone has been through, it’s important to be a good person.

He learned this lesson as a teenager, getting caught dining and ditching with a group of friends. The cop booked everyone but him. He never forgot about it.

“She said, ’You’re not even a bad dude. I can see it in your eyes,’” says Dig, whose real name is Derrick Cunningham Sr. “I try to see the good out of all the bad I’ve been through. I want to bring people up. I don’t want bring them down.”

It makes sense then that so much of Cunningham’s now 15-year relationship with hip-hop has been defined by helping other people in the community. A lot of his energy goes toward the Kali Boyz Radio Show, which airs every Tuesday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on www.the360radio.com with fellow rapper Hennessy. He spins some national acts, but focuses on supporting local artists.

There’s also Cunningham’s bimonthly hip-hop night at the Blue Lamp, another opportunity to catch up-and-coming local acts. He doesn’t even perform there himself that often. He prefers to use the spotlight to help other rappers—though, he will play a set this Friday.

Cunningham, now 31, started rapping at 16, but didn’t get serious about hip-hop till about a decade ago. He spent much of 2006 through 2008 creating not just his own music, but advising and producing beats for other artists, including Tip Toe, Tjay, Shiz Jaz and Sim Biz.

“It’s about the support, straight up. If I feel it, and I see it, then I do it,” Cunningham says.

Of course, it’s not just about talent. People have to have the drive, too—a fact he’s learned the hard way.

“I used to shoot videos. I used to make beats. All of them [artists] fell out,” Cunningham says. “I’m the only one that just stayed.”

It’s that drive that led him to finally releasing his own music. After working with other artists for a couple of years, he went through a divorce and didn’t play music for another year.

In 2014, he released his debut solo ablum Dig Dis, featuring material he wrote from 2008 to 2014. After that, things went quickly. He released Sacramento King in 2015 and plans to drop the debut Kali Boyz collaborative project with Hennessy, Far West Coast, later this year. His third solo record­—Past, Present, Future—is scheduled for next year.

Though he looks up to classic West Coast rappers like 2Pac and E-40, he doesn’t think of himself as a “gangsta rapper.” He’s just rapping about the struggles he’s seen growing up, but he also hopes to start writing about what he feels is an optimistic future. Next year’s Past Present, Future should touch on that to some degree.

Even in the midst of everything else he’s working on, Cunningham can’t help but take new artists under his wing. His latest discovery? Heathen.

“All he was doing was spitting verses just raw on his phone. I’m like, ’that dude, he’s been through some stuff,’” Cunningham says. “He’s got the struggle. He came from the north side of Sacramento. I want to help him.”