When Jim Jones formed The Diplomats with his childhood friends Cam’ron and Freekey Zekey in the mid 1990s, he had no idea what kind of influence they would have on pop culture.
With the addition of Juelz Santana in 1999, the collective would bulldoze their way through the Hip Hop scene with their brash attitude and Harlem swagger that countless fans — and even fellow rappers — wanted to imitate.
Dipset revolutionized the game with their artist-driven mixtapes in the early 2000s, but it was their debut album, Diplomatic Immunity, that made them household names.
Released on March 25, 2003, the double disc album peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart with over 90,000 first-week sales, powered by fan favorites like “Dipset Anthem,” “I Really Mean It” and “I’m Ready.” It was also the only project released as part of the group’s deal with JAY-Z’sRoc-A-Fella Records, which came to an end the following year.
Many consider Diplomatic Immunity to be a classic 2000s rap album, and as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend, and Jim Jones believes it’s a moment that should be cherished, especially given what the project symbolizes.
“It was great and very raw,” Capo told HipHopDX via Zoom. “We were young and ambitious teenagers from Harlem who set out with a dream and goal, and was able to accomplish that. We knew we had a way into this game, but everything that we put on there was really what we were living. There was no cap. We was really outside, so just the opportunity that we got as we were coming from nothing was special.”
The album was just the latest punch from The Diplomats, who were dusting themselves off from uncertainty. According to Jim Jones, the group were returning from a period when they were looking for a way back into the industry before they broke onto the scene.
Cam’ron had just gotten out of his deal with Sony/Epic Records and worked his way back alongside his crew, which led to him signing a deal with Roc-A-Fella in 2001. His third studio album Come Home With Me arrived the following year, paving the way for Dipset to join the house that JAY-Z, Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke built — and the rest is history.
“What people don’t know is when The Diplomats got big, we were coming back from nothing,” Jim Jones told DX. “Cam had a deal, got out of it, and we was forced to go back to the streets. Being in the streets led to Cam being managed by Dame to getting signed then The Diplomats got signed. That was our retribution. This is our get back. We had a chip on our shoulders, so we had to execute.”
He also considers Diplomatic Immunity an album that symbolizes resiliency. Four kids from Harlem, New York breaking into the music industry and becoming legends feels like something out of a movie. But to Jones, there’s nothing fictional about their journey.
“That album showed people you can never let anything stop your dreams,” he said. “It don’t matter where you at in the world, ’cause we started from the bottom of the bottom in the projects with nothing to offer. We had to get everything and earn everything. So for us to be here and overcome all the things that we did and all the great things we accomplished is everything.”
He continued: “That album was the beginning of an era that changed the face of Hip Hop. A double CD that was both red and blue represented the things that our city would pick up, which was gang culture. The style that we gave y’all was that album. I can’t even think about how influential we were, but I get remnants of it all over — from people telling me what we meant to them to seeing it in front of me.”
There was a time when Hip Hop fans believed The Diplomats were no longer a group due to years of friction and shots thrown on various sides. The members would reunite several times over the years, but could never quite recapture the magic they had when they first emerged onto the scene.
Rumors of tension resurfaced recently when Jim Jones addressed relationship with Cam’ron and Juelz Santana on his new collaborative album with Hitmaka, Back In My Prime.
“I be in the streets, they are asking where Juelz at/ I wanna know the real reason why he fell back,” he rapped on “Status Update.” “And it’s hard for me and Cam to see eye to eye/ I love him and I still hug him, but when I see him it’s like hi and bye/ It’s kinda crazy, I thought it was ride or die … next subject.”
Fans were quick to think Jim Jones was taking shots at his Dipset brothers, but according to Jim, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“People hear music and take it so literally. I was just saying some personal stuff that I wanted to put on record,” he explained. “It was no way, shape or form me dissing or talking down on anybody. If you listen to the words, it’s all complete love. They’re still my brothers above all, and Diplomats is for life.”
When it comes to representing Dipset, Jim Jones is the one member who continues to show his allegiance to the group, no matter if there’s inactivity within the collective. He has a fierce loyalty to the group and continueS to fly the Diplomats flag because he wouldn’t be here without it.
“The group is something that we all got rights and ownerships to,” he added. “Everybody carries the same Dipset, but how they may carry it may not be the same way I carry it. I can’t talk for them; I can only talk for me, and I know what I’m carrying on my back, and that’s that bird forever.
“That’s the thing that got me here, and I can never turn my back on it. That’s the thing we’re most famous and influential for, so we gonna ride that ’til the wheels fall off. No one will say they were able to come in and do what The Diplomats did — just like N.W.A, just like Wu-Tang Clan, just like Run-DMC. Our name is going to be forever when it comes to Hip Hop history.”
Stay tuned for more of HipHopDX’s conversation with Jim Jones. In the meantime, relive The Diplomats’ Diplomatic Immunity below.