Dame Dash & Diplomats Attribute Dipset Hiatus To Increased Independence
Exclusive: Dame Dash and Dipset return to talk about taking breaks to work on their brands, why you can't call yourself a boss unless it's your own money, and why 2014 is the year of the Dip.
Dipset has recently returned to the Hip Hop world as a unit with “Dip Shits,” an uber catchy lead single simultaneously signaling the return of the Harlem crew, and maybe, hopefully, the return of the booming sound that ruled the New York Hip Hop scene in the early to mid-aughts. Characterized by extremely heavy bass lines, horns, and 808’s, the team filled the vacuum in the New York scene as Jay Z licked the wounds of Blueprint 2 and 2.1, and Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Nas, Ja Rule and Murda Inc. struggled with a young, hungry Queens contender by the name of 50 Cent.
But while 50 took his talents to the West Coast hitmakers at Interscope, Dipset embodied the very soul of the city with their XXXL t-shirts, Cam’s Pink Panther hoodie and flip phone (is there anything more indicative of the pre iPhone struggle that that photo?), and the sheer gaudiness of their iced out chains, Just Blaze at their beck and call, and singles like “Touch It or Not,” and “I Really Mean It.” But even all that cannot fully encapsulate the torrential downpour of quotables the group was responsible for. From “Ballin!” to Cam’s amazing hood takedown of Bill O’Reilly on his own show with “You mad?” the Hip Hop collective was taking no prisoners and having a blast doing it.
At its height, Dipset was releasing classic mixtapes with the same ferocity they were putting into their multisyllabic rhyme flows and testosterone fueled lead singles, which were just as flammable as the $2 a gallon we were paying for gas at the time. But things fall apart, and the group went through its fair share of ego explosions, label beefs, and controversies before they eventually went their separate ways… At least musically. It turns out they may have just been biding their time, as brothers are want to do, until they were all bosses in their own right. And it seems that time has come, what, with Cam’ron’s A-Trak collaboration Federal Reserve grabbing him magazine covers again, Juelz set to finally work with Lil Wayne, and Jim Jones running three different clothing lines while still releasing timely “Revamp” mixtapes to keep himself current. So the jury’s still out on whether this is an official return or not, but the evidence has never been more promising.
Why Juelz Santana Says He’s Underrated
HipHopDX: It’s been a long time since all of you have been on a record together…
Juelz Santana: It’s been a long time [laughs]!
DX: Since 2010 at least. So has there been talks about getting back in the booth together?
Juelz Santana: I mean, yeah, we got a few plans. We’re putting some things together. So, you know. I don’t ever like to be the one to blow things up, but we’re all on good terms. You see we’re all here shooting this video together so…
DX: So what are you working on for the rest of 2014 music-wise?
Jim Jones: Oh, yeah, I have a bunch of new music coming out. Just waiting on the impromptu time to jump in the game. You know what I mean? It’s still a race. It’s just one race that don’t end.
Juelz Santana: I’m working to take over, man. It’s just branding my whole movement. I got some good news, and I don’t really want to put it out there, but… I’m just in the inner works of doing a lot when it comes to 2014 and my music, putting out artists… Just become a full-fledged businessman/CEO of my own label and getting shit to where it needs to be. I definitely feel like I’m supposed to be a lot further from where I’m at and definitely very underrated. It’s not like it bothers me. It’s just when I really look at it and I look at who’s winning it’s like, “Come on, Rap. Gimme a fuckin’ break,” but… whatever.
DX: What kind of music are you looking to put out?
Juelz Santana: I’m looking to just really put out great music. There’s no… I’m not really going to limit myself to certain kinds of music. You know, if I hear something and I believe in it I’m a go hard for it, and that’s what it’s going to be. One thing about me is that I’m a musician, too. Just as much as I rap… I rap about my lifestyle and where I come from, and you get the hard shit from that. But I’m a musician at the end of the day. I know good music. I know how to hear stuff that’s… I may not can’t relate to it as far as, you know, substance wise, I mean, that might not have been the way I was brought up. But I know how to appreciate stuff that’s just generally good music. So, I feel like I’m blessed to be able to hear and see things like that.
Dame Dash Reveals Plans For “Harlem Cocaine Cowboys” Project
DX: What about you, Dame?
HipHopDX: What are you and Dipset working on this year?
Dame Dash: Well, right now what I’m focused on is putting out the A-Trak and Cam’ron album, the Federal Reserve project. Then right after that, I’m putting out an album with Jim called The Harlem Cocaine Cowboys as the soundtrack to the Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded album. And, the Dipset USA clothing line, the Vampire Life, the Million Dollar Racer, the Lady Vamp, Dash Motors. You know, basically, I’m trying to be LVMH but with an entertainment component to it as well. So I’m launching all my…and I have to be independently funded. I don’t want to be… I’m not trying to be a hedge fund. Like, I’m not trying to have a hedge fund put up money and be the face of it and have equity, so I have to put up the dough. It has to be something that comes from my point of view. And DDPoppington gallery is important to me, because that’s where I will be showcasing all shit I’m doing. And again, it’s independently funded. And, again, acquiring Rachel Roy and bringing that back independently funded as well.
DX: With everything being independently funded, how different is that from the usual situation?
Dame Dash: It’s so much better. Bottom line is you pay for a quality of living, so instead of riding a private jet, I’d rather ride JetBlue. It’s way better, and then on the creative level, I never have to ask. I can employ who I want, and I never have to explain myself. Nothing. There’s no arguing because who am I going to argue with, myself? I don’t have to argue, so I’m not frustrated. And again, I feel more like a man. I feel insecure when another man is telling me what to do, and another man let’s me hold something and I have to pay it back. So, you know, I just can’t live like that. That’s why the overcompensation comes, because at the end of the day, when people project usually the things that they are projecting about has been given to them. They convince somebody to give them some money, so now they’re happy about it and now they’re spending somebody else’s money. That’s what my wife should be doing. You know what I’m saying? But other than that, I don’t feel good about it. I’m not judging anybody else, I’m just saying it’s not for me. That’s my approach on it. That’s the way it makes me feel. Maybe it’s just my insecurities, but that’s just me. I don’t know. I just don’t like being given money to do stuff. I don’t like being in debt.
DX: How far along is the Cam and A-Trak record?
Dame Dash: Done. We’re finishing some stuff, and it’s coming out. We shot the first video.
DX: When is it coming out?
Dame Dash: Probably July. At the end of May we hand everything in, so probably July. Or, June, right? I’ll say July. Probably July. We’re working out the distribution part of it now. But it was independently financed. They have an independent company, and I have an independent company. Cam has an independent company. We came together and found a common ground, and we’ve independently been moving in a major way, so I don’t see no reason to have no major get involved in this. It’s like BlakRoc, pause.
Jim Jones & Juelz Santana Reflect On “I Really Mean It”
DX: [Laughs] The pause movement was a major Diplomats craze. One of my favorite DipSet records is “I Really Mean It.” Can you guys talk about how that went down?
Jim Jones: Run through the making of “I Really Mean It?” Really? That’s not a conversation right now. That’s a long conversation. Yes, “I Really Mean It” was a different type of song, boy. This not the setting for that conversation.
Juelz Santana: That had a lot to with Just Blaze, man. Just Blaze did the beat. The beat was powerful in and of itself. We were just about putting icing on the cake after that. That’s one of them days you walk in… Just walk into the studio and Just Blaze taps you like, “Yo, I got something. Come in the room.” He played it, [and it was like], “I really mean it—ah!” You’re like, “God!” Your head damn near breaks from popping so hard to that shit. So, like I said, it’s just like “Oh Boy,” the beat, the platform was already there. Now it’s just about you utilizing the platform to its fullest. We did that on “Oh Boy.” We did that on all the beats—especially at that time. So, we gave that sound a life.
Jim Jones: Well, you know, it was a fun time. It was a time in history of this Hip Hop era when aggressive music was still in. You had to state your claim, and you had to go hard. And, you know, everybody wants to talk about they want to be king, but we were taking king’s heads off. This is Sparta!
DX: You guys were New York at the time…
Juelz Santana: Facts. Facts.
DX: Why do you think you’re so underrated?
Juelz Santana: I don’t know. It really doesn’t… I don’t know. Right now it’s just about showing and proving. I definitely feel like I can do a lot more. So right now it’s just about me showing that and just doing that. Give them nothing to complain about. Don’t give them no room for error. So, like I said, it’s just about coming out with that music now. I just got some good news, and I’m free to really go out and abuse my power, and abuse my talents and I’m going to do that.
Dame Dash Says Dipset Never Broke Up & What It Takes To Be A Boss
DX: In terms of the present day, this is the first time all the members of Dipset have been on a track in a while. Should we be expecting a Dipset reunion?
Dame Dash: If you notice, you know, there’s always talks. It’s not a reunion, they just stopped. It never went sideways, they just didn’t put out records for a little while because they wanted to deal with whatever independently they wanted to deal with. We all kinda had to take some time so we all could know we could do things independently. Sometimes, a team, to be a team, you have to know that you can do things independently, and that’s basically what we had to do. I had to know that I didn’t need anybody. I could start from scratch and that I could get new run money. Cam had to know that he could make movies on his own, and he’s financed projects. He’s made music, done his fashion thing and you see he’s very creative.
Jim Jones started four or five clothing lines. He’s shy, and that’s what’s funny about it, but he doesn’t speak on the fact that he owns Vampire Life, Lady Vamp, Protocol—you know all these lines. Million Dollar Racer. It’s all independently financed, and it’s distributed in a professional way. No one really speaks on that, and he’s a television mogul right now. He’s got a television show that get’s 1.7; that’s a 3 million audience. But nobody speaks on that. He doesn’t even speak on it. Sometimes I think he’s used to being a rapper, but he’s a mogul. I’m selling oil because I didn’t want to be a mogul. I was a mogul in my 30s and my 20s, and I want to be a tycoon now. So, I had to get my Dash Motors on, and I’m focusing on that as a family business, and that’s just for fun. I like cars. I like old cars, and I wanted to make an oil for old cars. I wanted something that someone that wanted to have old cars could put in their new car. So it’s like that. Bring a lifestyle to something. It makes sense. It kind of goes into everything else. And, you know, getting that Rachel Roy back under the umbrella. See what we do with it now.
DX: You’re seen as the ultimate hustler…
Dame Dash: Yeah. I’m from Harlem, B. All I know about is flipping. So if I buy a house, I’m not going to only be happy with the house. If it costs two million, I’m going to want one that cost four. If it costs four, I’m going to want one that costs eight. If I get a car it’s going to be alright...it’s a car. But then I’m going to want a jet, then I’m going to want a yacht, then I’m going to want a helicopter and then I’m going to want an island. And the money that you’d be making, you have to keep flipping so you can get more. So, I’m never going to be satisfied. I’ve already spent my first billion dollars. I want to buy a football team. I don’t plan on holding no money any time soon. I’m from Harlem.
Why Dame Dash Says He Has An Obligation To Consult Other Artists
DX: You want to buy a football team?
Dame Dash: Yes. That’s my retirement plan. I mean, I have a plan for it. If you notice what I’m doing, but I don’t know if I want to tell everybody. Yeah, but it’s about me independently financing it myself and having companies that can sponsor things and shit like that.
DX: So you guys will never be under a major label again?
Dame Dash: Underneath? Do I look like an underneath man? That’s what I’m saying. Those kind of words can’t come in any sentence for me. That’s pause for me. Nah. Will I ever work for somebody? I would help somebody run a company as long as it’s an independent scenario and as long as they’re helping me with… you know, there’s some kind of a common ground. I’m not saying I don’t work with corporate, I’m just saying I don’t work for corporate. I never want to be told what to do by someone that’s not putting up the dough. That’s what aggravates me more than anything. You know, someone with a title like president feels like a boss, but he’s never put up a dollar, and he’s told what to do. So how can I respect that man? I can talk to a president, but I’m not a president. I’m a CEO. I’m a boss. I put up my own dough. That’s what makes me a boss. That’s what a boss is. A president is not a boss. He’s a manager. He’s a supervisor. And that’s what people need to understand. Titles don’t mean nothing. That’s for insecure people that need to be controlled. A boss, period. That’s what makes you boss. The person that puts up the money. Nothing else makes you boss. A boss does not have a boss. A boss does not have to ask. And that’s what I pride myself in being—a boss. I just can’t be anything but a boss. There’s no dollar amount that’s going to… I just can’t do it. I’m sorry. I just can’t.
DX: Would you back and consult the music industry right now?
Dame Dash: I consult. I talk. I consult everybody. I can’t help it, that’s what I do. When I see somebody, I tell em’. That’s your responsibility. That’s your obligation. I don’t even get paid for that. If I care about you and you’re doing the right thing, I’m going to always give you the advice based on my experience. Not based on my intuition, but based on what I’ve actually done. I’m not just going to be talking out of my ass. As far as I’m 20 years in, yes I’ve created a lot of things, so I’m just telling you how I did it. But I’m always going to give that advice. If I see someone doing something wrong… It’s like if I see a truck, I’m going to tell you to move out of the way. If you’re about to get hit, I’m not just going to let anybody get hit by the truck.