There have been plenty of influential rap crews in history. Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders Of The New School, G-Unit and contemporary groups like OddFuture have all had an impact on rap music. When professors are lecturing about Hip-Hop in the mid-2000s they will mention The Diplomats as arguably the most important group of the time. A crew that at its core consisted of Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana & the myth Freaky Zeaky. These charismatic, hilarious, creative & forward-thinking Harlem natives took the unique qualities of their borough and brought the world a lifestyle to live by. For fans of Dipset, it was much more than music.
“I nurture their brains, I’m moving the movement.”-Cam’ron
Everyone wanted to dress, talk and act like them. They were seen as the trendsetters for much of the fashion in the mid-2000s. Juelz kept a bandana perfectly arched on this head, Jim had a grimey and almost dirty swagger to him and Cam’ron, at his peak, was a modern day Fonz. Cam even claims he’s the reason guys were wearing square earrings back in the day. The Diplomats were at the forefront of two fashion trends first the baggy shirts and jackets and then with the tight shirts, scarves, and True Religion jeans. They brought lingo to the world that we still use today like “Pause,” “No Homo” and “Stop It Five.”
A genuine Grassroots Movement that was propelled into the mainstream with songs “Oh Boy!” & “Hey Ma.” They had a sound unique to them. Sped up souls samples and menacing beats were provided by The Heatmakerz mainly. Jim Jones is obviously the weakest lyrically but his unorthodox style was interesting when paired with the rest of the crew. He isn’t a rapper but it can’t be defined what he did with “We Fly High.” The song spread into the mainstream pop culture like wildfire. Juelz, during the height of Dipset, had all the most potential in the world. He had charisma, an ear for beats, a good flow, and the ladies liked him. It’s interesting to look back at the trajectory of his career and Lil’ Wayne’s seeing as they intended to put an album out together. Label issues and work ethic kept him from becoming one of the most popular rappers even now.
Cam’ron has always been the leader of The Diplomats and for good reason. He’s still the best rapper out of the group. There are countless verses full of witty lines and clever wordplay to prove it. Lines like “I keep computers putin” are always referenced, and obviously he has some ridiculous moments, but who doesn’t? It’s like he was barely rapping. He was just talking with style and it worked so well. Anyone questioning his talent should listen to “I Really Mean It” thoroughly. Two verses of brilliance over one of Just’s best beats and Jim trash talking like Diddy in his heyday. The song is literally perfect. Purple Haze is seen as a modern “classic,” and he held Diplomatic Immunity together when it could have gone off the rails. He’s much better than we give him credit for.
The movement was full of engaging characters. From J.R Writer to Hell Rell to the late Stack Bundles, The Diplomats had a stable of quality talent. The most notable was Max B. I’m still not sure what it was, but he had a certain quality that people loved. Even now, serving his jail sentence, he remains a polarizing figure. Some saw him as the second coming while others were convinced he couldn’t rap or sing very well. Regardless, he was the star of the ByrdGang collective and Jim couldn’t contain his talents.
The group was so popular it’s hard to comprehend that they were a part of Roc-A-Fella at one point. It makes, even more, sense that the relationship didn’t last that long. From the beefs, the mixtapes, the street DVDs, Bill O’Riley or the cinematic masterpiece Killa Season. These guys were cool and funny on top of putting out amazing music. That time will always be a great one for rap and their influence can’t be understated.