[24 June 2007]
There’s been little change in the Dipset hierarchy, despite all the internal conflict lately. Jim “Capo” Jones, who always had a big head, is still flying high off his fluke ballin’ success, and, if the reports are true, is trying to stage a coup to oust founder and CEO Cam’ron out of the ranks. (Jones is doing it largely under the pretense that it’s because Cam got punked by Dipset nemesis Tru Life outside an NY club, but don’t let that fool you; it’s all about power.) As far as the others: Juelz is largely distancing himself from the whole clique, showing up to lay down some lazy guest verses on other members’ mixtapes, but focusing his energy on his next album (which is sure to blow up) and his collaboration with his new mentor Lil’ Wayne. Freekey Zekey is off house arrest, apparently, and is releasing The Book of Ezekial on July 24th; it is sure to be the Dipset equivalent of Tony Yayo’s last album. JR Writer is still terribly underrated and in need of some good beats. Hell Rell is about to drop For the Hell of It, which will probably only be worth a listen for the guests’ verses, and 40 Cal. is probably still sitting on dough from his appearances on Fight Klub (where he ripped it, by the way). With so many egos it’s surprising that someone didn’t try to kick out Cam sooner. He’s an anomaly in the group: an immensely talented MC more at home rapping over “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” samples than Notorious B.I.G. ones.
It’s these about-to-explode tensions that make the second volume in co-producer/hypeman DukeDaGod’s More Than Music series such a fascinating listen. On the “Intro”, 40 Cal., stuck in the back of the gang-photo cover art (only slightly ahead of newly signed female rapper Jha Jha) sounds almost comically self-aware of his position in the Dipset camp: “Team still scorin’ / Jim still ballin’ / Cam still flossin’ / Santana tourin’ / Hell rell scorchin’ / J.R. sportin’ / I just take what’s the leftover portions.” Interestingly enough, Dipset compilations like More Than Music and Diplomatic Immunity are geared toward exposing the lesser-known members of the set. Cam’ron is on one track off MTMV2; Jim Jones is on two; Juelz is on three. The rest of the record shines the light on Hell Rell, 40 Cal. and JR Writer. They seem to have no problem with their position as Dipset foot soldiers, which is what makes the group so successful: they hype each others releases, guest on each others albums and, when needed, stay out of each others’ way. Their stubborn loyalty was bound to crack, and the recent Tru Life/Cam’ron incident which Jim Jones seems to be using to his advantage (pouncing once weakness is shown, like a true politician) may be the catalyst for the entire foundation’s eventual collapse. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter if Dipset falls apart. The way the group is set up, with each person gettin’ their own on their own terms, would allow for a Wu-Tang style split. The lesser members should be worried, though, as even their meager sales are largely due to their Dipset affiliation.
One of these members, Hell Rell, who’s being groomed to be the next Diplomat to break out, is given one of the best beats on the record, “Street Pharmacist”, a cinematic, hyper-speed, celebratory track that he can’t keep up with. The beat flies past Rell’s slow, metered gunisms and a tear is shed for the idea of what Cam’ron could have done with it. Speaking of beats and Cam’ron, in a sort of sequel to last summer’s “Weekend Girl”, his one contribution to MTMV2 is “Suga Duga”, the kind of song that stays true to Cam’s penchant for word-making and school-yard slang. Over Lil Fame of M.O.P.’s syncopated-piano soul sample, Cam raps to all those struggling young women, “strippin’ for tuition.” But of course, Cam turns it to himself: “Don’t wanna hurt your heart / I feel we deserve a start / You smart / And me, ma? / I’m a work of art.” Other highlights include the Rek produced “Dipset City” featuring everyone but Cam, a bad omen. 40 Cal., who just released his overlooked mixtape/album Broken Safety 2 reprises the best track off that record, “Getting By”, a typical came-from-the-gutter rap saved by some great imagery about what 40 didn’t have growing up: “I had milk with no cereal / Water in my Cheerios… Butter with no jelly…Fish with no chips / Bitch with no tits.”
Don’t expect any variables on Dipset’s guns, cash, cars motif. At their worst, they embody the worst of rap-extravagance. “Get the Money”, featuring newly signed comedian Katt Williams (!) is obnoxiously bad, “Gladiators” has JR Writer calling dudes queers and threatening to “knock [them] out the Nike’s [they] wear,” and “Anniversary”, the sole track (thank God) featuring the incarcerated Max B, is depressing in its bleakness. But at their best, they feed off Cam’s cartoonish vision of flashy New York decadence that he perfected on Purple Haze: scorin’, ballin’, flossin’ and tourin’, as 40 Cal. says, with the slightest of ease. And entertainingly so. I wouldn’t put it past Cam if all this inter-fueding was as phony as that Lambo-jacking incident—all a well-planned PR stunt to keep the cameras steadily rolling on the never-ending drama that is Diplomats Records. I can’t take my eyes off it. But shouldn’t I be worried about my ears?