On his diss record to 50 Cent, Camron taunts This aint a label Curtis, Im freakin with family. And during the filming of the Cuurtis video in Harlem, where Cam is jumping out of caskets, surfing car roofs and polyn 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 Gods apartment, where enough bags of Dipset t-shirts are stacked up to put a drug lords stash house to shame. The Diplomats are more than music, and Duke da God literally has his hands in every aspect of his crews 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: Im 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 its 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. Its 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, its just like with any group. But were 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, its just that we a small group so when we do sign independents its strategic- everybody cant be Dipset. But its 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 its a job nobody ever really knew about as far as what an A&R does. Its a beautiful position and its something Im bringing light to. Its 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 cant rap or they cant sing but they love music. I wouldnt 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 its a long way he came and progressed, and Hell Rell too, so its serious business. They get a lot of love and a lot of respect and plus theyre fun to listen to- they actually write rhymes and its 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 thats why they have a nice fan base- they dont just say nothing.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the beef popping off between 50 and Cam?
Duke: Actually, Im going to be honest with you, I didnt really want it to go down like that. Cause we never really knew them like that, we never did business we never gave fives 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 its just Cam and 50 and they dont really know each other so its nothing really to me honestly, but its Hip-Hop: you gotta see who is the biggest, the baddest – its competition but right now its just Cam and 50 and hopefully it just stays just them two, it aint got to spread out of control, thats 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 didnt hear 50 Cent he couldnt really hear him but he said he heard him talking to Styles and he wouldnt have him talking to him like that, so to me I look at it like a misunderstanding, I do, to that degree. Im just looking at is as far as they dont know each other, like it aint 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 theres no problems.
AllHipHop.com: But theyre in your way when 50 starts saying Koch is a graveyard, right?
Duke: Yeah, stuff like that, everybody got they personal opinions, I dont care. But like I said, Cam held it down, Cam held Koch down, so its 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 thats why everybody coming at us, its 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 thats 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 thats how it go down, you know what I mean? None of that stuff is true, its just like the rumors that 50 Cent dont f**k with Banks, you hear those rumors too but you dont really know but as far as the Diplomats, its 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 dont hear that much from Dipset, and you also dont hesitate to go on Southern beats, is that a conscious thing?
Duke: We just doing us, man, we aint worried about what n***as be doing like to make a song hot, its a bunch of us and everybody dont 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 thats a Dipset beat, thats 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 thats a G-Unit beat, thats a D-Block beat, so thats 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 Jims album is a totally different sound from anything we ever did before. We just moving like with music, its 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 thats not really popping like that, s**t go through phases and s**t like you dont talk about platinum no more, nobody cares about platinum no more you know what Im sayin? We go through changes and with the music thats how that s**t goes to. Like with the sped up samples, we dont 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 its like whatever we just do it man, like whatever, eenie meenie mini moe [laughs], its 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. Im 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 dont send nobody but yourself to do that, you know what Im 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. Im so proud of part two; its real dope. I think its more musical, its 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, its 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 were not just music its some other s**t, we got a lot of s**t going on, more than just these songs.