Album Review: The Diplomats, Diplomatic Ties

diplomatic ties

The Diplomats

Diplomatic Ties (released November 21, 2018)

Before there was TDE or A$AP Mob, OVO or GOOD Music, Dreamville or Young Money, there was one rap crew that had grown men buying pink furs and eight-graders screaming inappropriate catchphrases at strangers.

DIPSET DIPSET DIPSET DIPSET

In the early ’00s, the Diplomats were the hottest crew in rap, with Cam’ron’s bizzare non-sequitur rap style, Juelz Santana’s youthful arrogance and the Heatmakerz’s bombastic production creating a cult following that’s still fondly remembered today.

Let’s be real, though – the revolving crew of Dipset members weren’t exactly known to be lyrical titans (Juelz and JR Writer had their moments, and I’ve always appreciated the method to Cam’ron’s madness). What made their music captivating simply came down to attitude – unapologetic boasting over regal production, dripping with pink swag.

Fourteen, yes FOURTEEN, years after their last collaborative release, Cam, Juelz and capo Jim Jones reunite for Diplomatic Ties, which has to feel like an early Christmas present for kids who grew up on the Dip’s trademark sound. The LP attempts to straddle the line between current production and the early 00s sound that made them superstars – a wise move in theory, even if the execution is sometimes shaky.

“Intro: Stay Down” serves as the perfect reintroduction. I’ve rarely been moved my Jim Jones solo stuff but he’s in his zone rattling off cheapshots when next to the Set: “Man, I’m watchin’ all you grown men dancin’ to the Kiki/S***, up in Harlem we was dancin’ on them ki, kis.” Santana is as cocky as ever (“They was more Nicky Barnes, I was more Frank Lucas/They was thinkin’ like Bishop, I was thinkin’ like Q on the roof/Never cared about the Juice”) while Killa Cam brings the usual controversy:

Dame Dash my man, he shootin’ then I’m buckin’ with him
They shootin’ at us? S***, I’m duckin’ with him
But I had to be firm and tell him
That Kanye only f*** witchu when no one else is f***in’ with him (That’s a fid-act, fid-act)
He told me he was bipolar
I looked and said, “Bipolar?”
Don’t be ridiculous, he wasn’t in the mix with us

That’ll get the blogs buzzing for a couple of weeks. Cam is crazy like a fox.

If you’re looking for those 2003 feels, look no further than “Sauce Boyz,” easily the most Dipset track on the album. Heatmakerz chop up another soul sample, with Jimmy REALLY feeling himself:

I was watching all these rappers rockin fanny packs
I was asking myself, “What kind of man is that?”
And that’s a shot, muhf***er, can you handle that?
Make a phone call and have you parking where it’s handicap (skrrt skrrt)

It’s his most inspired verse in a long time. The Set even links up with the LOX for the, um, creatively titled “Dipset/Lox,” where Jadakiss steals the show: “Mighta thought he was Drew the way he Bled-Soe/All on Instagram Live letting the Feds know/Now you inside writing books, letting your dreads grow.”

I think Kiss just predicted Tekashi 6ixNine’s future.

Even though it’s great to hear Un Casa emerge from the shadows on the outro and listen rant Cam rant about his legacy on “Dipset Forever” (“We bought you the Max Bs, the Juelz/Pay homage, n****/I’m comma after comma after comma/What the f*** we got in common, n****”), there’s not much else to grab your ear.

“On God” leans on more current production but fails to distinguish itself. It sounds like every other rap track in 2018. Even worse is “No Sleep,” featuring generic sounds with Tory Lanez absolutely butchering the hook, his voice crackling like a 13-year-old.

How did that trash hook get green lighted? WHOSE MAN IS THIS?

Dipset’s place in music history is unshakeable. They were the gateway drug for an entire generation, hooking ’em on this hip-hop thing for a lifetime. Even though Diplomatic Ties is a fun flashback in spots it’s by no means a return to the prominence that inspired scores of fans.

It’s more like a holiday reunion with your high school squad – they’re a little older and more weathered, but they’re still pretty entertaining. Gotta love ’em.

Best tracks: “Sauce Boyz,” “Intro: Stay Down,” “Dipset/Lox”

3 stars out of 5

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