While most music executives stay cloaked behind the scenes, Diplomat Records A&R, Duke Da God, has opted to place himself in hip-hop’s forefront. In 1993, the Harlem native started out as the manager for the defunct all-star collective, Children of the Corn, composed of childhood friends, Big L, Ma$e, Bloodshed, McGruff and Cam’ron. When the group disbanded after the death of Bloodshed in 1997, Duke continued to work with Cam despite offers from a then burgeoning Roc-A-Fella Records. When Killa Cam formed Diplomat Records in 2000, Duke was hired as the imprint’s VP of A&R. Three years later, he launched the Diplomat one-stop shop website, DipsetMixtapes.com, and released two compilation albums, Diplomats & Duke Da God Present: Dipset More Than Music, Vol.1 (2005) and Cam’ron Presents Duke Da God: The Movement Moves On (2006). Gearing for his latest KOCH Records release, Diplomats & Duke Da God Present: Dipset More Than Music, Vol.2, Duke chats with XXLMag.com about album sales, Cam’ron’s career and Dipset’s mark in hip-hop.
More Than Music Vol. 2 marks your third album in three years. Can fans expect more of the same with this release?
The first one [Dipset More Than Music, Vol.1] was a success. The [last] album [The Movement Moves On] was a classic. So a lot of niggas loved the albums and I just wanted to go back in with the same type of vibe and show why we’re more than music.
Is it hard coordinating a compilation album like this?
No, not for me. I go in with the fire in my eyes. Once you got the fire, people know you’re serious. Everything [else] just falls in place.
You’re using mostly new producers on this album, rather than Dipset mainstays like The Heatmakerz. Any reason for that?
I like the underdog. I give everybody a shot. So it’s not like I’m missing somebody by not having A-list producers on the album. I like producers that compliment our sound. It doesn’t matter to me. I like Kanye West; I think he’s dope. I think Just Blaze is dope. But I’m not trying to pay that money. We don’t need a producer to sell records.
Speaking of selling records, Cam and 50 Cent argued over album sales, comparing numbers between Dipset and G-Unit. But according to SoundScan, none of Dipset’s latest projects have surpassed the 400 thousand mark.
Regardless, [if] we put a project out and it doesn’t sell to the expectations, [the] love is still there. [SoundScan] doesn’t compromise the music, it just compromises the marketing. There’s always determining factors like, the project wasn’t promoted the way it was supposed to [or] the numbers ain’t up like they should be. It’s like that [in] hip-hop [now]. The numbers ain’t the same anymore. It’s rough weather out there. You got to weather the storm.
Can’t that be used as an excuse, as well? After all, downloading and bootlegging has always been around.
They’ve always been there. The Internet’s been there, but not how it is now. You got 170 million people on MySpace every fucking day. They ain’t have that stuff a couple years ago when the game was a lot better. It does hurt. Even the way companies operate [now] hurts. It’s like global warming — it’s hip-hop warming. We’re just going through the process. Things are changing. You just have to adapt to the changes. You make up for it with ringtones. There were no ringtones back then. There wasn’t no real iTunes back then. You make up for it with other things.
What factors do you consider when going after a label deal nowadays?
You gotta have your business right. You got to know what you want, know what your worth and be confident. If they believe in you, then they’re willing to work with you. They’re in it to make money. If both parties make money, that’s what’s up. Our projects over there [on KOCH Records], they make money. We recoup and everything is successful. We make money, they make money.
Can a new artist be as successful on KOCH as Dipset?
Actually, a brand new artist could do it. Their [KOCH Records] marketing dollars are stiff. They don’t spend a lot of money on marketing. So to develop a new artist, that’s a process. That might take a year or two before the artist develops. They don’t have the time for that, [though]. They want to sell records. They don’t want to develop an artist.
Is Cam really going to rename his album, Courtesy Curtis?
Yeah. Cam said it, he’s gonna do it. Cam is pretty much blunt and true to what he’s gonna do. Cam is the leader and he’s the one that brought us this far. I’m a rider, it don’t even matter. 50 Cent started it and he don’t want to finish it now. Cam is a different opponent. He  can’t do what he did to Ja Rule.
What are your thoughts on Cam’s appearance on 60 Minutes last Sunday?
I thought it was dope. He’s exciting. He’s what the people want to see. They like his responses, his confidence, so he’s definitely what the people want to see.
Some fans feel Cam’s switched his style a lot in comparison to his earlier work. Do you think that’s a fair criticism?
To me, Cam is one of the greatest MCs of all-time. If you look at all the MCs who didn’t change, look at where they are [now]. They can’t do what Cam do. They can’t demand what Cam demands. Cam is smart. He changes with the times and keeps reinventing himself. He keeps himself running in people’s minds. Where as other artists [who] never switch up are not even in the game anymore. Everyone wants the old Michael Jordan. Everyone wants these old people but they gotta change up. People were mad when Jordan added the jump shot to his game. Niggas was mad, like, “He don’t dunk no more.” But he had to do [that] to win them chips. That’s what Cam’s doing.
Dipset has sparked a lot of trends. Now it seems everyone has swagger jacked your rock ‘n’ roll clothing style.
That’s why we’re more than music. We got music too, but we’re icons. We’re the people that people want to be like. In Hollywood they mimic and do the same shit. We more than music, we’re businessmen, we’re fashion models…do some shit that niggas wasn’t doing and make it pop. That’s more than music.
Why has their been so many delays with Hell Rell’s album?
Sometimes, the momentum ain’t built up. It’s all about timing. Hell Rell kept getting pushed back ‘cause we want to make Rell’s shit hot. We believe in Rell. So I feel like Rell can pick up where a DMX left off. We didn’t want to rush his project.