One hundred and Thirty Fifth Street at the intersection of Seventh Avenue is the center of Harlem, geographically and spiritually. From that location you can ride a bmx with your ace sitting on the handlebars to anywhere important in Harlem in five minutes. Esplanade Gardens, Willy Burgers, Rucker Park, Taft Houses, Grant Houses, Branson… Okay, Branson isn’t in effect anymore, but Harlem is still beautifully predictably unpredictable. The trends that begin here in this great big incubator for Black people go all around the world. In a barbershop on the Ave. the talk of the NBA Playoffs quickly switches to that of Harlem’s very own favorite sons when some rap music industry insiders enter the shop.
Throughout their relatively short existence the Diplomats have been a trendsetting, exciting rap group. Their music used sped up soul samples and triumphant, majestic drum loops. The Diplomats were riding through rap music like an army. They were everywhere all at once. From the Harlem streets to the midtown offices of Universal records there was nothing that the Dips could do wrong. Diplomatic Immunity may not have been a critical success, but the only critics that the Dips cared about loved them. No one owned the street aesthetic like the Dips did. No one worked as hard as the Diplomats either. With mixtapes and all kinds of side ventures you had to imagine that the Dips were ballin’ out of control. Jim Jones confirmed that feeling in ’06 with his certified smash hit ‘We Fly High’.
In between those two flashpoints the Dips didn’t release as many records as the enemies they made within the rap industry. From Mase to Jay-Z, to Tru-Life and Fifty Cent, without even including Junior Mafia, In all of those squabbles DipSet united to send their legion of emcees at the offending parties. Battling anyone in the Dips meant you had to be prepared to ride on the entire crew because even if you were the CEO of Def Jam and an established veteran emcee you were going to be the named target on a DipSet mixtape, getting dissed by someone that you probably hadn’t even heard of before that track. To the fans of their in your face, ignorant, I don’t give a fuck the world rap music, the Diplomats were the zenith of Hip-Hop.
The Dips were able to stay close throughout their run at Roc-A Fella because the money that Universal was paying the movement flowed to all the members. Jimmy got his checks on time. Santana was paid regularly for his work ethic. Even Freaky could count on a check being cut for him. All of that dried up when the Dips left Def Jam and went to Koch. Juelz remained at Def Jam but even his line of resources was being cut. The Dips had all the swagger but they needed a breakout hit to get their momentum back up. Freaky got back on his drug trafficking grizzly and when he was caught there wasn’t any money to hire a crackerjack to get him off the hook. Finally Jim Jones broke through with his blockbuster single.
This song was the smash that the clique needed to remind Koch why they signed them in the first place. This hit single would bring some money back into the crew and allow them to pay some of the loyal soldiers who had been riding with them for several years now. Jim Jones went on a massive promotional campaign to support the single and his new album ‘Hustler’s P.O.M.E.’ The Jim Jones album didn’t do too bad at the end of the day and it should be considered platinum in the current music economy. The only problem was that the law of diminishing returns was being applied to Jim’s royalties for his record. It could have been a simple accounting error but it was never corrected. Because Cam’Ron is the president of Diplomat Records, the buck ultimately stops with him. Now Jim Jones felt a kind of way because at the end of the day Cam’Ron was more than a brother to him. This was a family member that he was having money issues with, a friend that he knew before all of this rap shit.
Think about all the beefs that Jim Jones and Juelz and all the DipSet riders have put on their backs for their boss. To a man, every single one of them rode out on Jay-Z. To a man, they all shitted on NaS and Mase. So when the time came for the don to bless his underbosses for their services there were several mouths left hungry. Maybe this will make these emcees even more hungrier? The people in the barbershop think that everyone is just going to get more bitter. Cam’Ron did say he was a millionaire didn’t he? That’s still a fictional amount of money on these Harlem streets. Even to ballers. I don’t know if the DipSet crew will ever live up to their hype or their potential, but for the sake of a friendship that dates back before crack and is about more than music, Cam’Ron is going to have to share some of his “millionaire”.