Joseph Guillermo “Jim” Jones is a very busy man. After a December photo shoot, though, the Dipset capo finds the time to sit for an interview in the office at his plush Midtown Manhattan studio. Surrounded by skulls—the images printed on his clothes, hanging on the walls… there;s even a large oil painting of one propped on an easel—he lights a thick blunt and gets down to it.
XXL: So what’s up with the Diplomats? Who are the Diplomats now?
Jim Jones: The Diplomats are Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey, Cam’ron Giles and Jim Jones.
XXL: All right. So what’s up with you and Cam’ron?
Jones: I haven’t spoken to him, literally. This Christmas will make a year, because I seen him last Christmas Eve in the bank. We talked briefly. We said a couple of words, said that we were gonna do a couple of things.
XXL: So what happened?
Jones: I don’t know. Somebody told me that you never know who your friends are ’til y’all have money. And I don’t know what he meant by that, when he told me, but a bit of it makes sense, because when you broke, you thick as thieves, and you do everything together. But when you get money, you seem to get jaded.
XXL: But if you’re all getting money together, you all get jaded together?
Jones: But then the story gets complicated… I mean, we getting money. I don’t know if everybody was getting the money they supposed to get, but we was getting money. We having fun, we young, we work hard. Getting jaded as a group? I don’t know. We were following one person’s lead, with the help of my knowledge. But it was still at his command. So I don’t know if we got jaded before him.
XXL: In the beginning, no one expected you to be a star. You were the one behind the scenes, making the videos, doing the studio, driving around with the mixtapes, if need be.
Jones: I was one of the pillars to hold the whole thing up. I did what I had to. I did what we agreed I would do. That would be take care of the business and whatever else I had to do to make Cam’ron famous and make us some money. And once Cam got famous enough, then he would be able to make us all artists and make us into something that would be relevant to making some paper. That’s what went on… I don’t know if I always aspired to rap. I don’t know that that was my thing. I just knew that I had it. I just had something in me since I was younger that—since school, since high school.
XXL: Have you gotten what you wanted out of the Diplomats?
Jones: I don’t know… See, there’s so many pieces to the story. Like, the real history. It just came from so many different directions to where we—just thinking about it now, just talking, like, there’s a lot of people who have their own bits and pieces to why this history is so important to hip-hop itself.
We should have been counted out the game numerous times, but, for some reason, we stayed afloat. For some reason, people seemed to gravitate toward us even more as we became more rebellious
and more flamboyant and more obnoxious and more aggressive. And, you know, N.W.A and everybody started that part of so-called gangsta rap. But I think, since the first part of the decade, the 2000s, I think we been the most aggressive group of individuals to come out of hip-hop.
XXL: Zeke and Juelz allude to the fact that something happened between you and Cam. Juelz has issues over his contract problems with Cam, and Zeke’s kinda caught in the middle. But the stuff really stems from you and Cam.
Jones: Of course it stems from us two. Because Diplomats was everybody’s when we started, but Diplomats was ours. When people saw Cam, they thought Jim. When people saw Jim, they thought Cam. So we were a bit selfish in feuding over whatever it may be, the bullshit, because we weren’t thinking about this movement that we started… That’s the only thing that hurts me the most, that we weren’t big enough as businessmen—and maybe it’s because it was only us. We had nobody older than us to tell us what was right from wrong with this business that we doing. We still was smart enough as businessmen to maintain the level of business we needed to continue the Diplomats flyin’. It just seems that one thing led to another. Separation started, and everybody started going on their different sides, and pretty soon it was just a wrap. There was no more to it. And it was around the “Ballin’” time. I’ll never forget it. It was right after the “Ballin’” video that everything was just…pretty much over. And I thought we had a pretty decent time there. I thought we had a pretty constructive conversation. But—and this is a lesson I’ve learned myself—communication is very important when you doing business with people you consider to be your brothers. Communication and cooperation. Loyalty is something different. But to do business, communication and cooperation is the most important thing. And we lost that. And once we lost that, we lost Diplomats. And I’m just talking about Diplomats as the way that people used to see it. Everybody rolling out.
So now it’s, like, me sitting back like, What have we done here? Is it every man for theyself now? Is this where everybody gets selfish and let everything go down the drain? Or do you take it amongst yourself to get up off your shoulders and get this shit popping? And that’s what I chose to do. I chose to use “Ballin’” as a vehicle to put everybody in and keep driving, ‘cause we wasn’t flying at that point. But
I said fuck it, we gon’ ride this muthafucka out and still get to the same place we was trying to fly to. And right now it seems like we pulling back up to another airport.
XXL: You say you lost communication. If you knew that was the problem, why couldn’t you have tried to fix it?
Jones: When you hurt and you upset, you not thinking about the solutions. You only thinking about what was done to you and different ways you can even get back. Or it’s even worse to get back, because amongst all this is a person you said was your brother. And a lot of childish shit was going on that we were both better than.
XXL: Any examples?
Jones: You know what I think it was? We were so young and came up so close. It was like being damn near married—in no crazy type of sense. But as we get older, everybody wants to start living a separate life and to—not to stop doing business, stop doing what we doing. But you become older, and the things you used to do, you don’t have a taste for that anymore. And everybody needs to slow down and go in their different directions. And I guess we didn’t know how to do that and still maintain the same brotherhood that we had. And whatever little mistake that one of us may have done—not in no bad way, but just as far as living our life—if it wasn’t beneficial, or if it wasn’t done amongst the relationship we had, it felt like it was a little bit disrespectful toward what we had going on for the last umpteen-odd years of our life.
It’s crazy. You know, for me it’s still… I try to talk about this in a way where you can relate to, but not really put what we been going through out there so much. So there’s a very thin line here, but it’s lessons to learn for people who coming up the same way we had it. I don’t care if you are hustling and making money or are doing business. Whatever it is, if it is something that you’re doing with a partner and making money, you can learn a lot from this story. And I can tell you all the time, but most people don’t want to hear it. They only learn from experience. And most of us learn from failure.
XXL: And no one told you, when you guys were coming up?
Jones: The biggest example for us was Dame and Jay, ya dig?
XXL: Okay, so which one are you?
Jones: Hmm. You really want to start some shit up.
XXL: No, you said it.
Jones: But I could feel like I’m Dame. But Cam could feel like he’s Dame, ya dig? So it depends on who you asking. I mean, from the way the story goes, I feel definitely like Dame.
XXL: So Cam was the paper gangster? Like, keeping Juelz tied down because his Def Jam contract was through Diplomats?
Jones: But then how can you say that when Cam was my partner, and I knew that was going on? So would that make me a paper gangster, also?-Vanessa Satten
For more of the What’s Really Good Interview make sure to pick up XXL’s March issue on newsstands now.