The move from an independent label to a major is one most artists aspire to make, but for Harlem’s proudest representatives The Diplomats, the exact opposite took place. As a result of Cam’ron’s signing to Roc-A-Fella Records, the crew (which, at the time, consisted mainly of Cam, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, and Freeky Zeeky) released the widely accepted double album Diplomatic Immunity in 2003. As a result of closed-door drama typical of major labels, however, the Dip Set decided to look elsewhere for their next group effort.
The group found their answer, and they’ve taken a year to prepare the follow-up album. Amidst the label hop, The Diplomats have struck business deals, expanded their trademark with JR Writer and Jha Jha, and played a part in Mase’s disappearance act. The turkey is in the pot with Uptown’s new reigning kings.
Here, AllHipHop.com talks with The Diplomats in a round-robin discussion about the new record, the newest members’ hunger to prove themselves, and where exactly a “Goonie Goon Goon” comes from.
AllHipHop.com: The first Diplomat album came out under the large umbrella of Roc-A-Fella Records, but things have changed. What made you all decide to put out these projects out through a smaller label like Koch?
Cam’ron: Well at the end of the day you got to realize that we got six dollars a record [at Koch]. If we sell 100,000 copies there, we will make more than if we sell 500,000 at Def Jam. It’s just business. A lot of people get caught up in that. At the end of the day, I need people around me to make money. So with Jim Jones, his album did 140,000 and I know that he made more money than some people on Def Jam that went platinum. We’re not stupid we’re form Harlem, we’re hustlers. We’re not going to sell millions of records and make millions of dollars when we could sell thousands records and make million of dollars.
Juelz Santana: Diplomats is a strong movement, and we figured that we don’t really need a big label to super-hype us up and put all of this effort into letting the people know we’re coming out.
AllHipHop.com: Did you guys have more creative control in putting the album together this time?
Juelz: Nah, I mean, we always have had creative control. Nobody has ever told us anything about our music. That’s one thing about us; on Roc-A-Fella, Koch, or anywhere else, can’t nobody tell us how to do anything.
AllHipHop.com: So how is the Diplomats’ current relationship with Roc-A-Fella?
Juelz: Oh the relationship is still beautiful. I’m still on the Roc, and Cam’ron is still there. It’s nothing real dramatic. We had to just make sure that we still see eye-to-eye with the people over there. That’s why Cam’s album has been pushed back so much. But his album is definitely coming out December 21, and my next album will be out in April. April Fools, man. It’s crazy right now. I got about 160 songs done, and I’m on my “A Game.”
AllHipHop.com: Cam, what was the hold-up on your album?
Cam’ron: At the end of the day, it was a big switchover at Def Jam as far as Lyor [Cohen] and when he left, which was six months ago. He was supposed to leave a year before that. But the thing with my album is that it’s been finished a year ago, but you know I do new songs to freshen it up. So when LA came over, I had to renegotiate my contract because even though he has a very good track record, he never really dealt with east coast hardcore music. So I had to renegotiate to make sure that the money was right just in case everything don’t go right. But now I got to sit down and talk with him and build a new relationship with him, I felt that that was the place to be.
AllHipHop.com: What did LA say to you that made you feel more comfortable about coming out?
Cam’ron: We went over the marketing plan and went over everything, form my point of view, and what he feel he can do to me. The thing with LA is, he’s cool, he wasn’t going to try and hold me down. He said, “If you want to break out, break out. But I really want you to stay and make this work out.” So for a dude who was willing to give me that opportunity, I respected that.
AllHipHop.com: Cam, what happened with Mase? I know that you were planning to possible do an album is that a done deal now?
Cam’ron: Like honestly, we weren’t planning to do one. He said he had a budget for me and I told him to get back at me, and the next thing you know he’s on the radio talking crazy. I don’t like to deal with [that]. It’s nothing personal towards Mase. I wish him the best of luck in his career, but I don’t know if I be working with him, because I doubt it.
AllHiphop.com: Now this next question is for J.R. Writer. You seem to have come out of nowhere to create a real heavy buzz on the streets. How did you first get down with the Diplomats?
J.R. Writer: Basically, I knew somebody that knew somebody – this dude named Puff, and that was my dude since like four or five years ago. He had me running around, battling niggas like all throughout Harlem and the boroughs. J-Hood was one of the niggas I first battled, actually. Puff had introduced me to this n*gga Gooch, who started that whole Taliban s**t. He brought me up to 145th and Broadway, and had me battling all kinds of n*ggas. One day, Cam had happened to pull up, right after the time he had just got signed to the Roc and finished up the first Diplomats album. I spit for him, but a lot of people were around his car, so he really couldn’t any type of answer or feedback. He later got at Gooch, and then he got me down to the studio with Juelz, and I got on his song “Squalie,” and after that it’s been all love.
AllHipHop.com: What do you feel you are bringing to the table that will make the Diplomats stronger?
J.R. Writer: There is a lot of bulls**t being put out in the game, and I think we’re bringing some real fire. Me personally, I’m Dominican, and there aren’t a lot of Dominican rappers holding it down for that side. So I think I’m just holding it down for everybody from Washington Heights to the Dominican Republic.
AllHipHop.com: No doubt. Hell Rell, you recently came home from jail, so this album must really mean a lot to you. How important was it for you to really have a strong presence on Diplomatic Immunity 2?
Hell Rell: It was the most important thing to me, man. I actually had to go in jail when we recorded the first one, so that’s the reason why I wasn’t on it too much. When I came home, I just made the deadline to jump on this second one. It was real important to me because a lot of people have heard a little bit from me, but now, they are gonna get two solo joints from me on the album, as well as me with the whole set.
AllHipHop.com: Jim, being that you oversee a lot of the Diplomat operations, how vital was it for you to really showcase people like J.R. Writer and Hell Rell on this album? Rather than just load it with yourself, Juelz, and Cam’ron?
Jim Jones: Of course it was a priority to let our newer artists hit people with their talent. That’s why we have a record label, to bring fresh cats out who are hungry and have the skills to show. It makes no sense to be selfish and take all of the shine. That’s not what we are here for. It was imperative that J.R., Rell, 40 Cal., and Jha Jha really shine on this album. Me, Cam, and Juelz we’ve been in the game in a minute, so now we have to let people now that we got some new s**t in store for their asses! After this album drops, the movement is gonna take over, for real.
AllHipHop.com: Outside of the music, you guys have this Sizzurp drink growing in popularity. Is it true that Sizzurp is made out in France?
Jim Jones: Yeah, we have a few distilleries out there in France. It’s real official.
AllHipHop.com: How is Freeky Zeeky doing these days?
Jim Jones: He’s still incarcerated, and he should be home in awhile. Nothing has changed with that, but he’s holding up strong, cuz he’s a soldier. We talk to him everyday. Unfortunately, he was incarcerated during the recording of the whole album, so he doesn’t have any vocals on it, but he’s still a big part of it.
AllHipHop.com: Finally, you have been talking about “Goonie Goon Goon” a lot these days, and a lot of people aren’t too sure what that is all about. Can you break down what that means real quick?
Jim Jones: The Goonies? Goon goon goon! [Laughs] You ever see that movie The Goonies?
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, of course.
Jim Jones: Well, I’m One-Eyed Willie and I’m rolling with The Goonies. [Laughs] There is really no more explanation needed.
AllHipHop.com: Cam, any thoughts of the rumors of Jay becoming President at Def Jam?
Cam’ron: Yeah, I talked to LA [Reid] about it. It’s possible but I spoke to him about it, [it] won’t be affecting me.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you say that?
Cam’ron: Because I have it written on [my contract] that what he does, has nothing to do with my project.
AllHipHop.com: You and Jay haven’t always been the best of friends.
Cam’ron: Well, I can say this: on LA’s behalf, that’s a very smart move getting Jay. He did a lot of things for the business, and accomplished a lot of over-achievements, and I don’t have a beef with him. We just don’t have a personal relationship, and at the end of the day I need people who I working with to have that kind of relationship with me. And I don’t think me and Jay will have that.
AllHipHop.com: Well speaking on that, a couple of years ago you was offered a position at Roc-a-Fella, and you turned it down because it wasn’t for enough money. Would you still consider an executive position not there but another company?
Cam’ron: Like I said, it depends on the money, and what they ask me to do to be honest. We are about to do nine-digit figures with Sizzurp.