Twenty years ago, Hip Hop shifted from R&B-flavored rhymes to the re-emergence of street rap. With 50 Cent’s mega-successful Get Rich or Die Tryin’ making the Southside Queens MC an established megastar, the underground audience needed that vacancy filled: enter The Diplomats. Led by their pink-is-cool leader Cam’Ron, the Harlem-based collective dropped their debut album, Diplomatic Immunity, on March 25, 2003, feeding the underground masses and planting their logo war eagle flag in the culture.
This Is What I Do
The Diplomats’ story begins with its leader Cameron “Cam’Ron” Giles, who started his musical career as part of the local Harlem group Children of the Corn(er) in the mid-90s. He along with members Herb McGruff, high-school friend Ma$e, and cousin Bloodshed, were all led by legendary MC Big L. However, with the tragic deaths of Bloodshed and Big L, the remaining group members went their separate ways. After Giles’ short run with college basketball, he returned home to earn street income until Ma$e set up a chance for Cam to freestyle for the Notorious BIG. While BIG lay in bed recovering from a car accident, he granted Cam an audience and was impressed by his witty wordplay. BIG then introduced Cam to Lance “Un” Rivera, who signed Cam’Ron to Untertainment Records.
Cam’Ron’s debut, Confessions of Fire, dropped in 1998. The lead single “Horse & Carriage” (featuring Ma$e) made a little noise. Cam’s sophomore release S.D.E.—now on Epic records—would be the introduction of Diplomat members Jim Jones, Freekey Zekey, and a young MC named Juelz Santana. Shortly after S.D.E’s release, Cam signed childhood friend Dame Dash (now CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records) to release a third album titled Come Home with Me, which gained platinum-selling success with lead singles “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma”, both featuring Juelz Santana. Now a solidified solo artist, Killa Cam’s next move was to make his crew known stars.
Cam’Ron Presents: Diplomatic Immunity debuted as a Hip Hop double album with 80’s rockstar glam appeal. The song “Dipset Anthem” with its base drum intro plus a body-lean dance scene in the music video was inescapable. The Heatmakerz produced majority of the album. Songs such as “Let’s Go”, “I’m Ready”, and “I Really Mean It” contained old-school R&B samples with repetitive hooks that created a signature sound for the group. The album’s skits were also famously funny, and the phone-call freestyles gave a real-life studio feel to the listener. Diplomatic Immunity was not without its controversy. The group proudly stated they were making 9/11 music with lines like “I’m the realest thing poppin’ since Osama bin Laden.” However, on the other side of the criticism, was the group’s olive branch to other regions outside of their New York home turf. With songs like “Bout It Bout It pt. 3” featuring Master P and lines like “I’m a better boy, Ohio players, Detroit Chedda Boyz”, they were building a loyal fanbase Down South and in the Midwest and furthering their cultural impact.
What’s Really Good
For a solo star to introduce a crew on the heels of their own success is nothing new, but usually the light doesn’t shine far passed its ambassador. However, the Diplomats and Diplomatic Immunity, with its members having solo success in music, fashion (all-pink fits, oversized jerseys, and baseball caps), and reality TV, proved to be a little different. Juelz Santana and Jim Jones became Hip Hop household names and leaders of subgroups like Byrd Gang and Skull Gang. The Diplomats continued to release mixtapes to feed their underground fans; they featured other members such as Hell Rell, JR Writer, and .40 Cal. Unfortunately for fans, the Diplomats’ internal beefs sometimes caused its members to go years without working together. Still, when they do reunite, the moment always belongs to Dipset. Because of that, Diplomatic Immunity will always hold a special place for its fans.