The history of No Diggity
If you know a little bit about the group BLACKstreet, you know that it is not a Hip Hop group. In fact, the founder and producer of the group, Teddy Riley is rather one of the precursors of the New Jack Swing, in particular with his first group Guy that he shares with the brothers Aaron and Damion Hall, but also with BLACKstreet, a group a little more R&B.
This being said, when Teddy Riley proposes the beat of No Diggity to his group Guy, they refuse to record the song, judging it too Hip Hop and far from the original catalog of the group. It is the same for BLACKstreet, to whom Teddy Riley proposes it in a second time after the refusal of Aaron Hall. However, Teddy Riley being convinced of the potential success of the song, he ends up convincing his group to record it, by recording the first verse.
Even if the production is credited Teddy Riley, Dr. Dre seems to be the architect. Several assumptions seem to confirm this theory. The first is the first verse rapped by Dr. Dre on the song, Dre does not usually rap on productions that are not his own. If this evidence is not enough, other assumptions seem to go in this direction. The sounds of the beat are rather the style of Dr. Dre than Teddy Riley. The roughly sampled guitar loop of Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands is typical of Dr. Dre’s work and bears an uncanny resemblance to the construction of other songs in his catalog. Some of the more notable ones are the sample of Joe Cocker’s Woman to Woman on California Love or What’s The Difference sampled on Charles Aznavour’s Parce Que Tu Crois. Concerning the piano riff, it also seems to be the work of Dr Dre for the reasons mentioned above, Dre is not at his first attempts on piano samples.
If we go back a little further, the story tells that Dr. Dre would have created the beat for a track of All Eyez On Me for 2pac. Dre being on departure of Death Row, he would have left with the beat to sell it then to Teddy Riley. The latter confirms this version but says he brought the guitar riff on the track inspired by the song of Bill Withers that a friend would have made him discover. Personally, this version of the story does not convince me, and I remain convinced that the production is stamped by Dr Dre.
But still, it is difficult to imagine that Teddy Riley is totally absent from the production. Teddy Riley is known to be a multi-instrumentalist, while Dr. Dre usually surrounds himself with a team of beatmakers to realize his productions. Already at the time of Death Row, Dr. Dre had his own keyboardist, a certain Soopafly. Daz Dillinger or Warren G also claim to have strongly contributed to some productions on Doggystyle, without having been credited, and without knowing with certainty the extent of their contributions. We know that Dre has the habit of putting his stamp of approval on the productions. Does Teddy Riley need it? Probably not, but knowing that Dre brought the initial beat, he probably didn’t let anything happen on his beat.
For the final word, who produced this beat? I think both artists brought their contributions and experiences of various influences to build the final product. Dre brought the initial beat bringing the Hip Hop touch, while Teddy Riley probably helped bring the piano and guitar riffs for the New Jack Swing touch. The whole thing was probably mixed and approved by Dr. Dre, which would explain why the production sounds like his usual work.
Even if the song, and especially its beat, is rather far from BLACKstreet’s usual work, the sung R&B verse is typical of the New Jack Swing that Teddy Riley usually offers. The writing of the lyrics are undoubtedly the work of the latter, including the verse of Dr Dre. The “No diggity, no doubt” would have been blown to him by LL Cool J who was invited for additional vocals on a remix of I Like The Way You Work released on the first album of Blackstreet. And surprise, this sentence comes back in the chorus of No Diggity.
What we now know for sure is that this is one of the most iconic tracks of the New Jack Swing group, and it is undoubtedly what brought the group to the attention of the general public and the Hip Hop audience.