On a snowy Wednesday night in lower Manhattan, Jim Jones — everyone’s favorite meteorologist — had an accurate weather report for the audience at iPic Theaters, who braved the cold to attend a screening of The Diplomats’ Diplomatic Ties documentary exclusively on Tidal.
“If you got on some crispy sneakers, step lightly ‘cause your shit is gonna get soggy, ya heard?” Jones said with a laugh.
It’s sound advice from a long-standing New York legend. Jones, along with Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, and Freekey Zekey, have maintained their allegiance to The Diplomats for over two decades. After several delays, the Harlem crew finally released their first project in 14 years last November, a nine-track set that also features Belly, Tory Lanez, and The Lox.
There are only a handful of Big Apple acts that have longevity like Dipset. Their history needs to be told for old and new fans alike, carrying on their legacy for the next generation to discover the flashy and flamboyant group. With their re-dedication to music, it was the perfect time to film a documentary to go along with the release of Diplomatic Ties — one that chronicles their success, their unique style and impact on hip-hop, and more.
Hosted by Brian “B. Dot” Miller of the Rap Radar Podcast, the likes of Raekwon, Conway, and even Cam’ron’s mom were in attendance to watch an early screening of the 17-minute short. It was filmed after the completion of Diplomatic Ties, and features scenes from the group’s “Sauce Boyz” video shoot, of them writing in the studio (Cam is seen recording his diss to Kanye West for the album intro), and of them performing on stage at the 2018 A3C Festival.
After the showing, Jones, Freekey, and Rsonist of The Heatmakerz participated in a live interview with B. Dot. Notably, Cam and Juelz were absent, but the members who were present talked about creating the documentary and why they wanted to put one out, their favorite Dipset mixtapes, new music, and other fan topics.
“This was the mini-doc to give you a taste of the longform,” Jones said. “But me and Cam been going back and forth on the longform because it is so in-depth. You gotta figure we started from 1997. We’ve been past eras. We seen so many artists, so many albums, so many years of us staying relevant and putting work in. It almost should be a trilogy instead of one long documentary. But it is something [that’s been] on our mind for so long.”
Below, Billboard complied five things we learned from last night’s screening.
Dipset Consider Themselves “The First Group or Artists That Did Their Own Mixtapes”
In the early 2000s, Dipset helped pioneer the artist-driven mixtape, mixing industry freestyles and original material to package and sell independently. Dipset’s The Diplomats, Vol. 1and Vol. 2 were (and still are) legendary mixtapes that broke new ground. In Diplomatic Ties, there’s a moment where the entire group reflect on their success.
“We was the first one that did our mixtape because what happened was I noticed that we were on Ron G’s mixtape, or Kay Slay’s mixtape, or whoever’s mixtape. We was on nine different n—as mixtapes. And I’m like, ‘We got mad music, we can make our own mixtape,’” Cam says.
At the time, the group saw an opportunity to apply pressure to the major labels, since none of the members had record deals yet. It was also a format for creative expression, allowing everyone to be completely free to release whatever they wanted without any label politics.
“Mixtapes helped understand who Juelz Santana was, who the whole Diplomat movement was, and just be able to put records out to get people to know who you are,” Juelz added.
Jim Jones Has Mixed Feelings About Gentrification in Harlem
Jones expanded on his thoughts from the Diplomatic Ties documentary about Harlem’s gentrification. “It’s an invasion, man,” he says of the changes in his neighborhood.
“Gentrification is something that I always go back and forth about. I see nothing wrong with gentrification because Harlem isn’t a pretty place to look at,” he says. “To see them building it up and putting condos and new businesses … but on the flip side, my people that have been living there all their life are not being allowed to get these jobs from all these new businesses and everything that are coming up in Harlem. That’s the twist with me. With gentrification, they’re pushing my people out more than they’re inviting them to stay and enjoy the benefits of gentrification.”
There’s a Release Date and Features Announced for Jim Jones’ El Capo
Eastside Jimmy has been teasing El Capo all throughout 2019, recently piquing interest with a video shot at this year’s Roc Nation Brunch. The next solo album is a follow-up to his underrated Wasted Talent project that dropped last April. Once again, Jimmy is linking up with The Heatmakerz for the entire album, revealing a feature-heavy tracklist: Dipset, Conway, Benny the Butcher, Fabolous, Mozzy, Drama, Trav, Ball Greezy, Dave East, Fat Joe, and Curren$y are all slated to appear. It is scheduled to release on March 29.
Jamel “Mel Murda” Jones Is in “Good Spirits”
Jim Jones has a history with Mel Murda, who was one of the members of his group called Byrd Gang. Mel Murda is also one of the co-defendants listed in 6ix9ine’s federal racketeering case, facing a litany of charges including narcotic trafficking and intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Jones didn’t want to get into too much detail about Mel Murda, but says he is his “closest friend.”
“I’ll tell you one thing — we’ve been living life a certain way for a long time,” he explains. “And to see the hard work we put in as a whole get faded in less than a year, it is not a great feeling. But I spoke to Melly, he is in good spirits. A lion is still a lion when he in a cage. That’s what he told me. We gon’ rock out.”
When asked about how he handles his artists who are caught up in the street life, Jones says he wants to pay it forward by guiding them and sharing his knowledge of the music industry.
“I’ve been one of the biggest A&Rs in hip-hop history. I put people on from the streets, from the bottom, all around in the country. And I still do every year, year in and year out, till this day,” he says. “Whether I make a dollar from them or whether I do business with them, I show artists how to put them in a place to make some money in this industry and I’ll keep doing that. ‘Cause when I was trying to get on, they told me the game is to be sold, and not told. I made some money and started telling everybody what I wanted to tell them. Get your bag. I am not hiding the bag. I want to share the bag.”
Jim Jones Doesn’t Acknowledge Dame Dash’s Apology
Earlier this month, Dame Dash liberated himself by apologizing to several important people in his life. Jay-Z, Lyor Cohen, Steve Stoute, Funk Flex, and Jim Jones were just some of the names he mentioned in his apology videos on Instagram.
“You know, I called Jim Jones today, and I miss him,” Dash said. “I don’t know if y’all know but I miss him. As a brother, I love his family. I want him to be happy.”
Jones had a different take on Dash’s apology: He simply doesn’t want any part of it.
“I am not here for none of that,” he said. “Shout out to Dame, whatever he doing. May he continue doing what he doing. I got nothing to do with that. I’m on a whole ‘nother mission. My mission is clear. I am staying focus. Everything that been in my life I’ve been trying to get rid of everything that is not good for me, ya dig? Because it is not good for me don’t mean it is not good for somebody else. It’s just not good for me.”
Watch Diplomatic Ties below.