Juelz Santana was the first Diplomat, besides Cam’ron to bring out the solo. He got his name known through his song titles, his pretty face, and his vital association to the Dips. The market sped up, and Juelz watched his crew swarm. But unlike his brothers, Juelz has stayed put comfortably at Def Jam. It was there that AllHipHop.com bumped into Santana, and got to talking about a different side of Harlem’s prince.
Though he might get lumped in, Juelz’ words and distinct vision pull him apart from the pack. While 50 Cent continuously references Rakim in his rhymes, you may be shocked to hear Santana reveal his admiration for “The R.” Juelz also weighs in on Millions More March, and his own managerial growth towards his forthcoming sophomore album. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll read the powerful words about Juelz’ high regard for his mentor, Cam. In a group so heavily revered for their decadence, Juelz Santana might’ve found identity as the humble Diplomat. AllHipHop.com shuts down Diplomats Week in style.
AllHipHop.com: So what is the appeal of Dip Set? You have a special following.
Juelz Santana: Our movement is real, real strong, but people don’t necessarily see that on the chart, because we’re not selling millions of millions of records. It don’t be adding up sometimes. In the streets, we get more respect than anybody walking. Anybody. Even those n***as that be selling two or three million records. Now we have to get to the point where everything matches up. Not necessarily trying to change the music or commercialize it, but making it sure that everybody can get it.
AllHipHop.com: More accessible. So, Diplomats left The Roc…
Juelz Santana: Well, nah. Diplomats is real spread out right now. Diplomats is Diplomats. Me, Jim and Cam – it is what it is. It’s a different situation now. We got about three separate joint ventures. We just renegotiated my venture [at Def Jam]. It’s a solo artist deal. Cam has his deal at Asylum. Jim has his deal over at Koch and he’s also a VP at Warner Music. We gonna do what we gonna do regardless. This label ain’t going to tell us that we can do what we’re doing with this label. You know how people might tell you, “You can’t do a song with him…” N***as ain’t telling us that. That’s just the bottom line. Nobody is every going to tell me that I can’t do a song with Cam. Nobody.
AllHipHop.com: What made you stay with Def Jam instead of going with Cam or Jim?
Juelz Santana: I wanted that machine behind me. It was nothing more than that. Nothing. Def Jam is a machine. As long as I gotta do what I gotta do to make it hot, to get the street buzz, all they gotta do is pick it up. And that shouldn’t be too hard. Last time, I just gave them an album and expected them to do everything. This time I am in here all the time like, “What’s good?” They have a name and a reputation. I’m trying to take this album to the next level. But it’s always Diplomats. Always. Cam is like my brother. If he would have said, “We’re leaving Def Jam,” I would have left and that’s what it is. No questions asked, because that’s my n***a like that. He gave me an option and that’s what I wanted to do.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about the video that you paid for.
Juelz Santana: The “Mic Check” video. It’s just a warm up record. But, I knew it was a hot record. I took it up to Flex and he just kept playing it and playing it. Nobody is going to mess with my career and that’s why I built my studio. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make me and my team, Diplomats, more successful – stronger. Shout out to Scott Franklin. He helped produce the video and I directed the video.
AllHipHop.com: How did you find Rakim? He’s notoriously elusive.
Juelz Santana: First of all, I did my last mixtape with Green Lantern, which was the “More Crack” joint. It was crazy. I got with Green late so he didn’t get to do all the things that he normally does. Even though, it came out crazy. We started working on the next one, “Fiend’d Out.” On my mixtapes, It try to go back, you know, not rock over everything that’s too recent. So, I redid the “Juice” joint and I spoke to him over he phone. And, he said, “I f**k with you.” It was love and I was like, “Daaaamn, this is Rakim – the god MC.” For real. I was like, “Just come and do the song, whatever.” He was with it. At the video shoot, he just popped up out of nowhere. He just came through. He just showed up. A lot of people tell me Rakim, he don’t be showing up. He was like, whatever. He was just supposed to have a little cameo with Kay Slay at first. Then he was like behind the joint when I was rapping. I was like, “Do you mind if you look like you are the overseer of what I am doing.” He was like, “What? If you don’t mind.” I’m like sheesh… I gained like 100 pounds that day [thanks to the compliment].
AllHipHop.com: How important is it to keep the old school alive?
Juelz Santana: It’s very important. A lot of people don’t show the old school no love. You know these young rappers, they don’t have any respect. It’s not that they don’t have any respect…they don’t really have any knowledge. They just rappin’ to be rappin’ and there is no meaning behind why they are doing it. They just rap because some s**t sounds hot. I definitely have my songs like that – cool s**t, street s**t – but the meaning behind my s**t is powerful music. My first album, I wasn’t talking a bunch of bulls**t. I was talking some personal s**t from my life. We try to make you feel us. That’s why I don’t think its been accepted by the broad, broad audience. It’s real deep and intricate. Some people just want the beat. That like the “Mic Check” joint, the beat was hot, the chorus was simple, but I still delivered the lyrics correct. It was the perfect record. It was still me. I was still goin’ hard on the record.
AllHipHop.com: You call Dip Set a movement. That’s a serious word. What are you trying to do with that movement?
Juelz Santana: The movement is all of us. We call it a movement for the simple fact that we don’t just have fans. That why we call it a movement. We might not have that four or five million, but the people that f**k with us, they want to be us. They are Dip Set. They got tattoos on their arm. You see shorties with Dip Set. We got like a cult. If we get everybody like that…its gonna really be a problem. It’s scary. We not gonna just have fans, we gonna have n***as that’s willing to go out for us. If five million people catch on, its going to be a problem. They not gonna be just fans…
AllHipHop.com: It’s going to be Jim Jones [the religious cult leader] for real!
Juelz Santana: [laughter in the room] A lot of people don’t even know that Jim Jones was a real person.
AllHipHop.com: Minister Farrakhan recently had a event where she pulled together a bunch of people from Hip-Hop. I was surprised you weren’t there.
Juelz Santana: Shout out to Minister Ben. I didn’t even know about it to be honest with you.
AllHipHop.com: He was saying that people in Hip-Hop need to come together, because people in the streets are dying. He was saying we need to harness our abilities. Do you ever think it’s possible in this industry to go from a music to a real movement?
Juelz Santana: All of us as one? I don’t know what he said and I don’t like to comment on…but…
AllHipHop.com: It’s called the Millions More Movement in honor of the tenth Anniversary of the Million Man March.
Juelz Santana: If it’s called the Millions More Movement, I know artists would come out for that. I don’t know if you are going to be able to get people to consistently make one type of change. Everybody gets together every once and a while to make a song for change. Despite change, there is still stuff that’s going on that people talk about. The music is supposed to be real, it’s supposed to be something you can feel. The stuff that’s going on, that people continue to talk about, it may be wrong, but its still going on. Can’t nobody stop that until it stops going on. Everybody is different and if everybody was just talking about change, Hip-Hop would be boring. I think the competition, everybody trying to be number one, it makes the game what it is. If everybody wasn’t trying to be number one… I also feel like people should just play their position. If you know you never going to get that spot. You got no business going for that number one spot, y’all just chill out. You got Ludacris, you got 50, you got Jeezy, you got us. Everybody falls into their category. If everybody was talking about change, then they would be like, “When is that gonna change?”
AllHipHop.com: I get you.
Juelz Santana: Hip-Hop has been great for Black people and anything we have been trying to do. Everything is going to have its problems. Its like a relationship. We have to keep it together. As far as the artists – balance it out. There are a lot of people that look up to us and they take heed to what we say. All the beefing and s**t, I think that could slow down a lot. But, just rapping about change, really everything needs to change.