[11 December 2006]
While Cam’ron and Juelz Santana are the very public face of the Diplomats, Jim Jones and his business partner Duke Da God churn out mixtapes and recruit new talent. Though much has been made about Dipset members getting eight dollars per album through their Koch Records distribution deal, it is the mixtapes (and their low overhead) that make the money stack up. Even with two of the most unique minds in rap on the roster (and a possible third in youngster J. R. Writer), the movement is about quantity over quality.
When Jim Jones raps, it’s more quantity than quality.
Hustler’s P.O.M.E. is Jones’s third album. He’s shown growth across his catalog and sounds more comfortable on tracks than he did three years ago. He’s even developed his own style, which is some amalgamation of Tupac’s revolutionary swagger, Young Jeezy’s ad libs and Fabolous’s descending whine. So, with the exception of the intentional misspelling in the album’s title, nothing about P.O.M.E. is particularly embarrassing. But the lack of creativity in his lyrics makes listening to Jones rap for an entire album pretty damn boring.
“We Fly High”, the album’s lead single, is kind of terrible. The beat is cheap and overdramatic. The hook sounds like Jim humming to himself in the shower, and it’s actually sung by his hook specialist, Max B. The lyrics are negligible, and the Dipset Capo’s only quotable is a dinky “What You Know” reference in the penultimate pair of bars. It also contains one of the most confusing lyrics in the history of rap.
Consider how he describes “flashbacks of last night of [him] balling out”:
One AM we was at the club
Two AM ten bottles of bub
And by three something I was thinking bout grub
so I stumbled to the car through the drinks and the drugs
To recap, in a grandiose track about living the lavish life, a truly memorable night involves going to the club at a reasonable hour, drinking a lot of champagne and then rolling to get a bite to eat. Swap out the bubbly for Hi-Life and Jones might as well be a junior at Michigan.
Most of P.O.M.E. is equally forgettable, meandering lists of cars and sporadic threats of violence. Not surprisingly, the best tracks are the ones with the guests. “Emotionless” and “Pin the Tail” both have massive verses from Juelz Santana, who sounds strong even while watching Jim beef with the head of his label. “Get It Poppin” features lyrics from Dipset’s underrated female member, Jha Jha, and, out of nowhere, some blazing bars from Princess of Atlanta’s Crime Mob (who are apparently still around after “Knuck If You Buck”). “Weatherman” with Lil Wayne would be decent if it weren’t a complete bite of Fat Joe’s recent “Make It Rain” (also featuring Weezy). And, though their relationship is nothing new, it’s always good to hear some words of encouragement from Dr. Ben Chavis, former leader of the NAACP and current CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, on the bleak “Concrete Jungle”. But save the features and a few hot beats (“Bright Lights, Big City”), there’s not much here.
But against all odds, “We Fly High” is not only in heavy rotation, but has become an anthem for a New York greatly in need of one. Jim’s got everyone yelling “BAALLIINN”, as he does in the hook. The fade-away jumper from the video has even become a signature for the New York Giants. It’s not clear whether they were doing this before or after Jones recorded the New York Giants remix (“GIIIANNNTS!”). Jim’s also been dissing Jay-Z on mixtapes for months, and Jay-Z responded (weakly) with his own freestyle over the “High” beat. Jim’s response was to record new verses from him and Juelz, tack them on to the Jay-Z version and call it “We Fly High (Beef Mix)”.
When Jimmy used to join Cam and Juelz in ciphers on the radio, Cam could frequently be heard in the background yelling “that’s the CEO rapping!” It’s not clear whether one is supposed to be impressed that the CEO can rhyme, or if Cam is making excuses for letting someone so marginal on the mic. With a record label, lucrative merchandise and his own liquor, Jones frequently points out that he doesn’t need to rap, and that he does so for the love of it. And it’s his business acumen, not his rhymes, which have made him famous. Jim’s biggest moves have nothing to do with the mic.