Duke da God: Sound Bombing

On his diss record to 50 Cent, Cam’ron taunts “This ain’t a label Curtis, I’m freakin’ with family.” And during the filming of the “Cuurtis” video in Harlem, where Cam is jumping out of caskets, surfing car roofs and poly’n with his peoples ‘til day break, family is exactly who he is surrounded by. The last part of the video is shot in front of “The Palace”, Dipset A&R Duke da God’s apartment, where enough bags of Dipset t-shirts are stacked up to put a drug lord’s stash house to shame. The Diplomats are more than music, and Duke da God literally has his hands in every aspect of his crew’s homegrown empire- from the color schemes of the clothing line to the beats chosen for the albums. But when it comes to this latest beef between Cam and 50, Duke has some reservations and hopes that the animosity will not spread to involve other crew members. In a candid discussion, Duke talks to AllHipHop.com about his next project, the latest drama surrounding the Set, and why he loves his job.

AllHipHop.com: Dipset keeps on expanding, would you say the unity today is as strong as it was back in the days when it was just you, Cam, Jimmy, Juelz, and Freekey?

Duke: I’m saying back in the days, it was different; nobody had a house back then or nothing, there was no money back then, it was like five, six years ago at least. Now it’s a lot of money, everybody got kids now, everybody got homes, everybody got cars and studios. But at the end of the day, we still communicate with each other, the unity is still there. It’s not as tight as it was in the beginning, obviously. We used to hang out on the block together everyday, it was different, the unity was definitely stronger, it’s just like with any group. But we’re still tight though.

AllHipHop.com: It seems like the name A&R is really associated with you but what you do is not exactly A&Ring, which is more about talent scouting and signing artists?

Duke: Yeah, not really an A&R, but I am though. Like we do sign acts- we got 40 Cal, we got Jha Jha. So we sign acts, it’s just that we a small group so when we do sign independents it’s strategic- everybody can’t be Dipset. But it’s more to my job than just that- we put songs together, its different levels and hopefully I can bring more light to the position because it’s a job nobody ever really knew about as far as what an A&R does. It’s a beautiful position and it’s something I’m bringing light to. It’s like a catchphrase now because I promote that all day. I get a lot of emails because people respecting what I do, they want to be just like me because they can’t rap or they can’t sing but they love music. I wouldn’t trade my job for nothing; I love my job.

AllHipHop.com: What kind of advice do you give new artists when they join Dipset, and what is the process for growing artists, like for instance JR and Hell Rell?

Duke: You know Hell Rell came, we had him on the first Diplomatic Immunity but he was locked up for a couple years and then he came up. And JR was really young, he like 21 years old now so he got down when he was a little kid. With JR, nobody would play his songs on the mixtapes so I had to negotiate a Cam record and give a Cam record to the DJ just to play a JR record. But he at the point now where he can do his own tapes now, he can do it on his own and sell 15,000 on some street s**t, so it’s a long way he came and progressed, and Hell Rell too, so it’s serious business. They get a lot of love and a lot of respect and plus they’re fun to listen to- they actually write rhymes and it’s not simple rhymes, its complex- that got people feeling like they put more into it than just going into the booth saying the first thing that comes to their mind, and that’s why they have a nice fan base- they don’t just say nothing.

AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the beef popping off between 50 and Cam?

Duke: Actually, I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t really want it to go down like that. ‘Cause we never really knew them like that, we never did business we never gave five’s to them n***as or none of that, it was just n***as you hear and see on the TV. So it was cool they were reaching out to us on other people, so when that happened it was kind of quick and swift. But right now it’s just Cam and 50 and they don’t really know each other so it’s nothing really to me honestly, but it’s Hip-Hop: you gotta see who is the biggest, the baddest – it’s competition but right now its just Cam and 50 and hopefully it just stays just them two, it ain’t got to spread out of control, that’s it- mano a mano.

AllHipHop.com: It was interesting that 50 had just given props to JR and Jimmy when he was talking to Angie…

Duke: But like Cam said, he didn’t hear 50 Cent he couldn’t really hear him but he said he heard him talking to Styles and he wouldn’t have him talking to him like that, so to me I look at it like a misunderstanding, I do, to that degree. I’m just looking at is as far as they don’t know each other, like it ain’t like going back like our beef with Jay-Z, we have something there. But [G-Unit], they not on our block, we not signed to their label, they not in our way, so there’s no problems.

AllHipHop.com: But they’re in your way when 50 starts saying “Koch is a graveyard”, right?

Duke: Yeah, stuff like that, everybody got they personal opinions, I don’t care. But like I said, Cam held it down, Cam held Koch down, so it’s all good. But like I said I just hope it stay Cam and 50, and Cam prevail at the end you nahmean? [laughs] I just hope it be like that. Because I done seen how that whole D Block and G Unit s**t went and that s**t got boring, that s**t is boring for Hip-Hop and we want to get New York back to where it used to be at, and right now we number one that’s why everybody coming at us, it’s crazy how we got everybody coming at us.

AllHipHop.com: One of the things that 50 gets at Cam is by saying Jimmy is the boss now, in a way that’s trying to create internal beef, and Cam has addressed that in his response but would you say that is there any truth to that?

Duke: Nah, Cam is the boss, Jim is second in charge and that’s how it go down, you know what I mean? None of that stuff is true, it’s just like the rumors that 50 Cent don’t f**k with Banks, you hear those rumors too but you don’t really know but as far as the Diplomats, it’s obvious Cam is the boss Jimmy is the Capo, and Juelz Santana is the underboss.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of people are talking about bringing New York back but you don’t hear that much from Dipset, and you also don’t hesitate to go on Southern beats, is that a conscious thing?

Duke: We just doing us, man, we ain’t worried about what n***as be doing like to make a song hot, it’s a bunch of us and everybody don’t shine at the same time. We know what it is, we doing what we got to do, and the reason I pick the beats I picked is because that’s a Dipset beat, that’s the s**t to me what we be rockin’. Like I listen to records and we got our certain sound that we can use and get away with that people classify us with. I guess G-Unit got a sound they classified with, I listen to beats and say that’s a G-Unit beat, that’s a D-Block beat, so that’s pretty much what it is we just follow the formula.

AllHipHop.com: Your sound has definitely evolved from back in the Heatmakerz days…

Duke: Yeah, like how Jim’s album is a totally different sound from anything we ever did before. We just moving like with music, it’s all about that time. A lot of s**t going on, styles change like before we was rocking a lot Jeff Hamilton jackets and s**t now that’s not really popping like that, s**t go through phases and s**t like you don’t talk about platinum no more, nobody cares about platinum no more you know what I’m sayin? We go through changes and with the music that’s how that s**t goes to. Like with the sped up samples, we don’t do that no more we just gotta evolve, our sound is evolving and its beautiful music, we always make beautiful music.

AllHipHop.com: How is the label situation treating you, with Koch and Warner/Asylum?

Duke: Oh, we get deals; my man Cam go in and get them deals. More Than Music we did on Koch, the JR Writer deal at Asylum so it’s like whatever we just do it man, like whatever, eenie meenie mini moe [laughs], it’s all good they know we coming with our own s**t, with our own marketing plans and strategies, our own everything. So all we need them to do is put the records in stores. Cam is a really good negotiator, he get the deals. Jim is a good negotiator, he get the deals too. I’m also a good negotiator, by the way. It just comes from within, you gotta get jerked around. Cam got jerked around so much before as an artist, that he just put his career in his hands and ran with it like that and figured out s**t, learned s**t like who these key people were and the positions that they did. And don’t send nobody but yourself to do that, you know what I’m sayin’. Cam is really vocal as we all know, and he also really smart and confident.

AllHopHop.com: What is More Than Music II gonna be like?

Duke: Aww man, More Than Music II! I thought at first More Than Music I was gonna be better than part two, but actually, two is some other s**t. I’m so proud of part two; it’s real dope. I think it’s more musical, it’s more s**t going on in part two than part one. Like when I go in on the More Than Music tip, gotta go at an angle, so I went at the same angle with part two. All the artists, everybody is on it like on part one but to me, it’s like I feel the songs more. And everyone went into it knowing there would be a part two they would be on, More Than Music is a brand I want people to know we are Diplomats we’re not just music it’s some other s**t, we got a lot of s**t going on, more than just these songs.

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