Jim Jones could care less about being on the cover of a magazine.

Slouched over on a sofa inside of The Heatmakerz’ Diamond District Manhattan Studios last week, Jones is listening to unmixed tracks off his upcoming EP. The intimate room is filled with marijuana smoke and a few producers, lending their expertise to the Dipset Capo. It's past midnight, but Jones isn't really tired. Vampire hours have just begun.

His black and white snapback hat reads New York “Diplomat” USA. Besides his tight-fitting Vampire Life T-shirt, the rest of his attire isn’t as modest. A sparkling, diamond encrusted bracelet rests on his right wrist and a gold Rolex sits on the other. On each of his hands there are rings—his left bears the $12,000 engagement ring his fiancée Chrissy Lampkin purchased for him three years ago, during the inaugural season of Love & Hip-Hop. The black and yellow Jordan 14’s on his feet haven’t even been released to the public yet. At 37, Jones isn’t the same flashy provocateur he once was, but his trendsetting tendencies have become habitual, which means even late night trips to the studio warrant such a getup.

"Why me?" he asks, perplexed at the premise of this interview. It's been three years since he released his last album. Tensions between himself and his childhood friends Cam'ron and Ma$e have died down, and his chart-topping crew, the Diplomats, have reunited...sort of. Despite performing together as a clique on several occasions, each of the rappers are working on projects individually and Jones won't say whether or not there is a compilation in store.

“It just feels good that we can be out there and in the same room, high-fiving. It’s a great inspiration to have ya brother’s back,” he says. “It’s a different type of organic that goes on when we’re all together. It’s something that I can’t explain.”

By 1:30 in the morning, Jones has just finished previewing a raw version of his entire EP. His eyes are nearly shut, but he'll be in the studio until six a.m. He’s ready to press pause on his recordings for now, to chat about his new EP, Dipset, fashion, and going from Harlem to Hollywood. – Christopher Harris

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XXL: Next month marks the 10 year anniversary of your solo debut, On My Way To Church. How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since then?
Jim Jones: I don’t think I was the most conventional artist when I first started. Now I’m a full time father. Back then, I was in the streets real heavy. I was still doing a little bit too much for the success that we had. It was hard to separate the two when the streets had influenced so much of my life and my business back then.

Before hip-hop, when you were younger, the church and the streets were pretty much all you knew, right?
True statement, homie. I was a church kid, Sunday school, church on Sundays, morning prayer meetings, Bible study, but I was a little bit bad, so I was skipping. The separation started when I started getting a taste of freedom to be able to go outside.

I just got a chance to hear the new EP. Can you share the title and who will be featured on the project?
K Camp, Yo Gotti, Cam has done a record. He’s on the “White Powder” record. Jadakiss is doing a verse, I have a few people on there. Juelz said he’s getting on one of these records too but he didn’t tell me which one he wants to get on yet. Sen City is on the “Cocaine” record. July 29, Vampire Life Pt.2: Memoirs Of A Hustler, the EP. It’s roughly seven records. [They’re] pretty good, summertime records, got some good energy on it. The tempo is a little bit different than what people are used to.

What was it like linking up with Trey Songz again for the single “The Shit”?
Trey is my bro. I’ve known Trey for a long time. I’ve watched him grow as an artist. He started with people saying, "He sounds like this person, or he sounds like that person." Now, it’s Trey Songz. They’re saying people sound like him now. I’ve watched the transformation. It feels good to know that I had a little bit of input on his career in the early stages.

Did you contact him for the feature?
He actually woke me up [at] like, 4 in the morning. My brother Bully called my phone like 4 in the morning, like "Yo, come to the studio, we gotta do some work." Got up, went there and that’s where we came up with that.


The Diplomats just performed in D.C. What’s it like working with Cam, Juelz, and Freeky again? Are you still working on that new album you guys have been promising?
You gotta get to the goodies. [Laughs] It’s a different type of organic that goes on when we all together. It’s something that I can’t explain. It just feels good that we can just be out there and in the same room, high-fiving. It’s a great inspiration to have ya brothers back.

Are you guys focused on bringing back the wave from the early 2000s or creating a new wave with newer music?
As far as waves, we do us, man. We pretty much been blessed with being trendsetters and people that stand out amongst the rest. We’ve coined a lot of phrases in this game, we’ve started a lot of trends. We changed the face of fashion in so many ways. I don’t think we’re trying to create anything or make anything, we’re just trying to do us. That’s how it’s always been. It’s just us being us. It’s in our aurora, it’s in our blood. We can’t help it.

You guys definitely set a lot of trends in the fashion realm during the early 2000s. Paisley prints, bandanas, leather jackets, chains hanging out your pocket.
Early 2000s was like Byrd Gang, gangbanging flags on ya clothes. Towards the “Ballin” days, that’s when the chain gang started coming out. We started dressing up a little bit differently towards that. We had more expensive clothes.

I was watching an interview where you stated that you actually started the pink trend. It was you and Dame going back and forth about styles you all had made popular.
I did start pink. It was something that happened the day I went in to get a brand new truck, they didn’t have. It was like a waste of an outfit. I was like no big deal, and Cam was like, "Yo, that pink lookin’ fly, I’m snatching that." Cam snatched it and ran with it.

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Do you think you guys are the most fashionable group in hip-hop?
Maybe the most influential—besides N.W.A—when it comes to everything. When it comes to style, we’re probably the most influential. I don’t recall no other group giving it to the world the way we was giving it to them. If you can recall or if you know some people, let me know. It’s good; I take it as a compliment. A lot of people was watching.

I actually do think there is a group now that’s similar.
Who is that group?

A$AP Mob. Do they remind you of you guys?
Nah. They weren’t from the street. They’re a good group of kids and they’re artistic but they’re not from the street and their style is way different than what we do. It’s a little bit far out there for me. We got bonafide swag and the definition of get fly, ya dig? I’m not trying to disrespect them—A$AP Mob is doing it, they got their numbers and they’re doing what they like to do—but they’re nothing like the Diplomats. They didn’t come up hanging and banging and hustling and really touching the pavement, ya dig? It’s a big difference. We don’t wear kilts and we don’t wear tight sweatpants and funny sneakers. That’s not our style. Price point and high fashion don’t really make it cool. I’ll still go in Wal Mart and come out and niggas will still think it’s Versace.

How does your style from the early 2000s translate to Vampire Life?
I don’t know if the style from back then translated into Vampire Life. I always like to get fresh, so when it comes to design or dealing with style, I don’t feel what I would go by Vampire Life. That’s what it’s about, ya dig? I’m just starting off with a fashion line and learning how to do cut and sew. I got a great point of view when it comes to fashion. I started off with shirts, and now we got an opportunity to do a global line.

What do you have in store for Vampire Life?
There’s a lot in store for Vampire life. Fall Season is looking pretty dope. We have another line called MBL, it’s a racing oriented line. It’ll be a little high priced. Fashion, I think they gon’ like me.

Are you hands-on with the brand?
Yeah, this my shit. I sit there and design it all. One thing I can’t do is tech pack and deal with graphic designs but I can prepare the pictures.

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The Diplomats had an epic beef with G-Unit. People were really choosing sides. What do you think about them getting back together, and is there still some tensions between both groups?
Ain’t no tensions. Nah, it’s a good time to jump back in the game. They got a lot of momentum. There are a lot of things that occurred in these past few weeks that kinda gave them a comeback. Shout out to the G-Unit.

You were one of the first rappers to delve into reality TV. What do you think about the direction of Love & Hip-Hop now?
I don’t have no thoughts on the direction of Love And Hip-Hop. It was something me and my lady did. We worked it all in. We don’t exploit who we are. As a business man, it’s doing pretty good. It’s doing real good. I tip my hat to them.

Do you think Mona Scott Young is exploiting people?
Hey, we all out here to get some money. For me to say someone else is exploiting another person sounds crazy, when I came up doing crime. Ya dig?

Would you do it again?
We getting ready to start. We got some things in the works. Chrissy & Mr. Jones is the number two top rated TV show that they had on VH1.

I remember when the Diplomats were pushing the liquor Sizzurp. What are some of the businesses you have today that most people don’t know about?
If they don’t know about it, I don’t think I want them to know about it. I got three clothing lines. I have an outerwear line, television business, reality thing. What else? We’re about to put the play back up, The Hip-Hop Monologues. I’m about to put it back up and running in a few states. It should be dope.


Recently you reached out to Tyrese and asked to be his apprentice. What made you reach out to him? Were you serious?
It was serious and it was a bit of humor in it at the same time. I started off rapping, that’s when I first started making money. To me, I always thought rap was like high school or college, so, you know, you gotta graduate and transition into something else. You gotta have different things. Naturally, certain rap artists have a gift for acting that they don’t know about. I think I’m one of them. Acting is fun. For the few gigs that I did, I get it and they make a shitload of money. There’s people in Hollywood, that don’t even know who the fuck Jim Jones is. That goes to show you how much money they’re making. I want to be a part of that, just get an opportunity. I was on IG, just having fun. So I said, let me be your apprentice and I’ll make coffee runs for no money. I’ll pay my own way.

Has he responded back to you?
He actually reached out to me on Twitter. He DM’d me his number. So that was dope. He sent me his number, so that goes to show you how powerful social media is. I’m definitely going to call him and chat.

What was it about Tyrese though? He started off modeling, then singing, then acting...
He did a lot of different things to get to the point to where he’s at. TheFast And The Furious. Tyrese is a dope actor. I know there are a lot of actors that may be doper than him but he’s in a great position and he comes from the same road that I come from and he’s constantly made different transitions, from seeing him on the Coke commercial.

Have you guys worked musically?
Not musically. But I know him. That’s my dude.

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I know you have a birthday coming up. Are you excited about that?
Yeah, I’ma go to Miami and have some fun. I got like ten parties.

You’ve said that you won’t rap past your 40s, and now I think you’re about two, three years away. Are you still sticking to that?
[Laughs] Shit, you never know what life may bring. It’s a hustle. I live a hell of a lifestyle. If I choose to keep bringing it, then I’ll keep bringing it. In my 40s, I’d rather be doing something else with my time. Hopefully, I’ll be acting. Maybe I’ll move to L.A., fuck with Hollywood. Do the second part of my life when I get to that age. You never know. But I’m still gon’ have fun, get money, and show my ass. That ain’t gon’ stop.

So you’re not saying it’s definitely over at 40?
Nothing is definite in this world but death.

In a 2009 interview with XXL, you said your ultimate goal is to move to Aruba and chill. Is that still the plan?
Yeah, that’s still my number one ultimate goal. You know what I mean?  If it’s not Aruba it will definitely be somewhere with a tropical climate, where I can wear some Jordan slippers or some Vampire Life slippers.

Previously: Jim Jones Has A New EP On The Way This Month
Jim Jones Featuring Trey Songz “The Shit”
Cam’ron Reunites Dipset In New Video With A-Trak
Dipset Performs “Salute” In D.C.
20 Hip-Hop Songs About Specific Relationships