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As the undisputed birthplace of hip hop, New York City has long been looked at as hallowed ground and a breeding ground for the best that the culture has to offer. This has led to acceptance within the five boroughs being considered the measuring stick to determine an artist, DJ or producer's worth, making the city the standard bearer for all things dope among rap fans and participants alike. However, with all that New York City and its creatives have contributed to hip hop, it has not always been the most welcoming of artists, sounds, and styles of rap coming out of other pockets of the country, one of the few blemishes on the Big Apple's reputation. While rappers out of the West Coast experienced their own struggle to gain traction and respect among their east coast counterparts, artists like Ice-T, Ice Cube and N.W.A. would manage to win over the notoriously critical NYC crowd by the early 90s, making both coasts the dominant players in the world of hip hop.
The South, in comparison, would receive the cold shoulder from the East Coast for much of the 80s and early 90s, with groups like Houston's Geto Boys and Miami's 2 Live Crew looked at as anomalies and novelties in the eyes of many rap fans. Yeah, Scarface was pretty ill, and Luke and company were cool, but aside from that, few artists out of the East were checking for artists below the Mason-Dixon, let alone collaborating with them. However, the Civil Rap War between the North and the South began to show signs of becoming a thing of the past during the mid-late 90s, when acts like Outkast and imprints like Rap-A-Lot, So So Def, No Limit, Suave House and Cash Money began to command the attention of not only fans on the East Coast, but artists as well. This manifested in artists from the South finally receiving their just due from their peers on the East and jumpstarted the trend of rappers from both regions collaborating together, which continues to be a staple in rap today. While artists like JAY-Z, DMX, Fat Joe and others were among the first wave of New Yorkers to embrace Southern rappers, Cam'ron and Dipset can be credited as one of the first collectives in New York to collide with the South on a consistent basis.
Despite notoriously asking "when the hell we start bouncing" on his 1999 single "Let Me Know" in reference to JAY-Z's own 1998 hit "Can I Get A...," Cam'ron was also guilty of acclimating himself with the South, collaborating with So So Def CEO and producer-turned-artist Jermaine Dupri on the Confessions of Fire track "A Pimp's A Pimp" that same year. Continuing his work with Southern-based artists with his appearance alongside a pre-fame Pitbull and Luke on the latter's 2001 release "Suck This Dick," Cam'ron's contentious relationship with Epic Records would stunt his growth as an artist, causing the rapper to depart from the label and bet on himself. Coming to the realization that there was strength in numbers, Cam'ron formed The Diplomats, with longtime friends Jim Jones and Freaky Zekey and teenage recruit Juelz Santana as the core members of the crew. With varying rap styles, larger-than-life personalities, and swagger to spare, The Diplomats made an immediate impact in the streets of NYC and beyond, with a series of mixtapes that earned them the distinction of being regarded as one of the biggest new movements in all of rap. And with Cam'ron securing a new record deal, this time with childhood friend Damon Dash's Roc-A-Fella Records, The Diplomats were in position to become household names, both collectively and individually.
And that's exactly what happened, with Cam'ron's Roc-A-Fella debut, Come Home With Me, achieving platinum status and establishing Juelz Santana as his trusty lyrical sidekick and the young prince of Dipset, and Jim Jones as the crew's enforcer and jack of all trades. Hailing from the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Juelz Santana came into the Dipset fold around 1999, making his first appearance on Cam'ron's sophomore album, S.D.E., in 2000. Exuberant and charismatic, Juelz's impressive showings on mixtapes and on the Come Home With Me singles "Hey Ma" and "Oh Boy" solidified him as a star in waiting. On the other hand, Jim Jones had been around Cam'ron the rapper's entire career, making cameos in videos such as "Horse & Carriage" and "Let Me Know." Born in the Bronx and raised in Harlem, Jim Jones, who was taught to rap by fellow Harlemite Ma$e, caught the urge to rap around the inception of Dipset and quickly caught on to the trade, becoming an unlikely star in his own right. Having established themselves within NYC and the East Coast, Cam'ron, Juelz and Jones began to set their sights towards the bottom of the map, with all three members fostering working relationships with the hottest rappers out of the South.
This trend began in 2002, when Cam'ron and Jim Jones teamed up with Cash Money Records CEO Birdman and singer TQ for the remix to "Oh Boy," but would truly take shape over the course of the subsequent five years. Due to the overwhelming success of Come Home With Me, The Diplomats were offered a contract to record their group debut, Diplomatic Immunity, which arrived in March 2003. Released as a double-album, Diplomatic Immunity continued their winning streak, with many fans and critics praising it as one of the best double-disc efforts in rap history. Complete with standout tracks from top to bottom, one selection on Diplomatic Immunity that stood out from the rest was "Bout It Bout It... Part III," featuring No Limit CEO Master P. Picking up where the previous two installments left off, "Bout It Bout It... Part III" finds Cam'ron and Jim Jones joining forces with the New Orleans mogul and rhyming over a revamped version of the original, giving it a subtle East Coast twist in the process. That same year, Juelz Santana released his own debut album, From Me 2 U, in August 2003, which brought back modest returns in terms of Soundscan figures, but was acclaimed as one of the stronger rap debuts of the year. One song from the album, "Now What," featured a guest spot from T.I., who was still a rising star and had ironically released his own breakout sophomore album, Trap Muzik, the same day.
The last of the trio to release an album, Jim Jones finally crashed the party in 2004, with On My Way To Church, which was led by the Game-assisted West Coast-centric single, "Certified Gangstas." However, the album also included guest spots from T.I. and UGK member Bun B, both of whom appeared on the deep cut "End of the Road." By this time, Southern rappers had begun to bring Dipset members into the fold, with Houston rapper Lil Flip phoning in Cam'ron and Jim Jones to both appear on his third studio album, U Gotta Feel Me, featuring Cam on the song "All I Know," while Jim Jones contributed a verse on the "Y'all Don't Want It," further evidence of the mutual respect between them and their compatriots from the South. While the earliest collaborations between Dipset and the South were largely relegated to deep cuts and were under the radar of the average rap fan, 2005 would be the year when the Harlemites' relationship with the South would become a pretty big deal. In 2006, Cam'ron released "Touch It Or Not," a sleeper single featuring Lil Wayne, from his fifth studio album, Killa Season, which would go on to become one of the more beloved collaborations of Cam's career.
Having stepped out of Cam'ron's shadow to become A-listers within the hip-hop community, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones would lead the charge, with Santana dropping the Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne assisted heater "Make It Work for You," and appearing on the latter's Dedication 2 mixtape, while Jones demolished a slew of remixes, including Jeezy's "Soul Survivor" and "I Luv It," and Rich Boy's "Throw Some Ds." The onslaught continued into 2007, with Jim Jones having elevated himself into the most buzzworthy and active member of the group. Over the course of that calendar year, Jim Jones appeared on nearly half a dozen hit records from artists out of the South, including Shop Boyz' "Party Like a Rockstar (Remix)," Foxx's "Wipe Me Down (NY Remix)," and DJ Unk's "Walk It Out (Remix)" and "2 Step (Remix)," making his voice seemingly inescapable for a period of time, in turn making the Dipset brand more ubiquitous than ever. However, while each member had achieved a considerable amount of success outside the group, trouble brewed internally amongst the crew, with Cam'ron taking issue with Jones branching off and forming his own collective, ByrdGang, outside of the Dipset umbrella. In addition, after releasing his breakout sophomore album, What The Game's Been Missing, contractual limbo concerning Juelz would strain his relationship with Cam'ron, all of which would cause a divide between the three men.
The splintering of Diplomats would cause each member to go their separate ways, however, all three have continued to work with South-based rap artists on a consistent basis. Cam'ron has not been as prolific with releases as he's been in past years, but some of his credits this decade include appearances alongside Dipset frequent collaborator Lil Wayne, as well as T.I. Rick Ross, and Gucci Mane. Speaking of Lil Wayne, I Can't Feel My Face may never see the light of day, but he and Juelz Santana continue to give fans reason to hold out hope, with Juelz claiming the album was "done" as recently as June 2018. Meanwhile, Jim Jones, who was once the most unlikely member of Dipset to sustain longevity, has kept his name in the running for the hardest working artist in rap, as the grizzled vet has continued to strike the iron, releasing numerous projects and appearing alongside the likes of DJ Khaled, Mike Will Made It, 2 Chainz, Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Trae Tha Truth, Gunplay, Ace Hood and other elite talent and producers out of the South. Whether individually or as a unit, which the group have become once again since putting their differences aside to embark on a somewhat lengthy reunion tour, The Diplomats' history and embrace of Southern rap and its artists remains etched in stone and can be counted as one of a number of reasons why the group was once one of the biggest movements moving.
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