After over 10 years in the making, independent rappers Russ and Bugus are finally launching their own record label: DIEMON.

An acronym for “Do It Everyday Music or Nothing,” DIEMON started in 2010 as a creative collective in Atlanta before becoming an imprint on Columbia Records when Russ signed with them in 2017. But in 2020, Russ completed his deal with Columbia and became a full-blown independent artist once again, releasing his 2021 album “Chomp 2” on his own. Most recently, his single “Handsomer” broke through the top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Now, the multi-hyphenate wants to help other artists by providing them with the resources of a major label — without all of the other binding stipulations.

“Everyone owns their masters; everyone owns their publishing. We don’t eat on your merch or your tours, and everything’s a profit split deal,” Russ tells Variety of DIEMON’s philosophy. “We’re not looking to invest in an artist just to change their music. If we like an artist enough to sign them, it’s because we like what they’re doing. It’s just a super artist-friendly situation, where we’re here to provide resources and mentorship to artists that we believe in.”

Bugus, DIEMON’s co-founder and Russ’ best friend since eighth grade, says the label is looking to sign passionate, “hungry” artists of any genre.

“We don’t want to have to chase you around and beg you to come to the studio. We want the kind of artist that we need to pull out of the studio and be like, ‘All right bro, you’ve done five songs tonight, take a break,'” Bugus says. “There’s a lot of rappers who have a label but it’s all rap, or R&B artists have a label and it’s all R&B. We want to be more like the big labels in that sense, where they have Garth Brooks and Lil Wayne and Wizkid from Africa.”

The DIEMON logo, which focuses on the ‘Everyday Music’ of the acronym. Courtesy FYI Brand Group

And DIEMON has found its first signee in Vallejo, Calif. hip-hop artist LaRussell, who Russ says reminds him a lot of himself early in his career.

“If you look at what he’s doing with his music, he’s putting out a bunch of content all the time — dropping albums here, dropping songs there. With him I was like, ‘Man, do whatever you wanna do. Whenever you need me, hit me,'” Russ says of LaRussell. “Because I know if that’s your vision and you wanna do all this content and do what you wanna do before you tap into the resources — I don’t care, rock out. That’s the same thing that I did, you know? But I know that wouldn’t be possible if he was signed to a major label, because they would be like, ‘Okay first of all, everything you’re putting out has to be ours. Second of all, you can’t be putting out this much stuff, we gotta have a plan.'”

For Bugus, that laid-back approach to deadlines comes from having the first-hand experience of being, first and foremost, a true artist. “We realize that you can go a whole month and not have any inspiration or creative juices. So you get that benefit just as people who played in the field ourselves, who currently play in the field,” he says. “We understand what it is to be an artist, and we’re not just looking at our bottom line at the end of the quarter.”

What will also set DIEMON apart is its financial transparency, provided by the distribution platform Vydia. Through tech that has been supplied to the label, artists can log onto DIEMON’s distribution website and keep track of all of their earnings in real time.

“It’s super transparent, like you see what we see. It’s one thing to say, ‘Yeah, we’re an artist-friendly label and it’s still going to feel like you’re independent.’ It’s a whole other thing to be like, ‘No, for real, you can log in and see what’s going on,'” Russ says. “It’s important to keep that artist-friendly relationship, and Vydia’s just been really great about being the resource that you need when you need them, but other than that letting you do your thing.”

Russ and Bugus hope that once DIEMON is established, it will cause a change in mentality across the music industry, with artists realizing that they hold the power.

“I hope that artists recognize that they’re the nucleus. They have more power than they realize and there’s alternative ways to win, you don’t have to go the major label way. You don’t have to give up your masters and do all of these really exploitative things,” Russ says. “That’s what I’m doing with my career, that’s what Bugus is doing with his career, but then as a label we’re also just going to show that with artists that we believe in. I can’t wait, and I know Bugus can’t wait either, until we’re three or four artists down the line of success stories of DIEMON artists.”

Bugus adds, “Labels don’t make albums platinum, customers do. It’s the fans who literally are in charge and they’re the ones who run everything, so we just want to help artists leave that mindset of all the power is in the label’s hands, when it really is in your audience’s hands. An artist is a lemon and a label is a lemonade stand. Lemons still have value without a lemonade stand, but a lemonade stand has no value without lemons. Whether or not you have a label, you’re still a lemon. You have value regardless, but a lemonade stand with no lemons is out of business.”