Archive for August, 2006

BILLY SUNDAY’s True Hip-Hop Stories: The Diplomats

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

the next level

True story is that a few years ago I was bumping DipSet 24-7. I still liked listening to them and I found their style of crack rap teamwork to be a humorous diversion. My very first assignment for this bootleg no budget Hip-Hop ragazine was to interview the Dips. Like any good stan I wore my crispiest pink button up to salute the DipSet leader Harlemite Cam’Ron. True story is that when Cam walked into the interview room I got up to shake his hand and he turned around and walked away. After a few minutes Jimmy Jones entered the interview room with Freaky Zekey and a dude that looked like Juelz Santana’s uncle. You could tell he was related to Juelz because he had his face, except this guy was in his late twenties or early thirties. He had a scruffy beard and dirty fingernails. True story is that was Juelz Santana. The Dips were cool but not that bright or intelligible. Jim Jones is full of charisma, the kids call it swagger. I created an interview that makes you think that these were the guys keeping the lights on at Rocafella/Universal. Peep my steez…

Imagine this… being a young, black millionaire in the music industry while still in your mid-twenties. Scheduling recording studio sessions on one phone, while booking international first class flights and five-star hotel accommodations with another. And still another phone line connects you to one of entertainment’s current tycoons, mega-power broker Damon Dash. Your office suite, located in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper, is awash with activity. Young people looking focused and moving about quickly. It is a scene from a dream or a motion picture. This picture is very real if you are Jim Jones, CEO and part of the hottest hip-hop collective since Wu-Tang. The Diplomats. DIP SET is comprised firstly of these four main members, Jimmy Jones, the cool and calculating capo of the family. Freeky Zekey, the member most likely to get 7:30 if the situation calls for it. Juelz Santana, one of the great, young creative minds to emerge in the rap game since Shyne debuted back in 1999. Last, but certainly not least would be the leader and founder, Cam’ron. Also known as the “hustler’s poster child”, Cam’ along with Jim Jones has shown an uncanny ability in handling the business aspect of producing records. Their marketing savvy is unparalleled when it comes to getting their product in the street and making it that most sought after commodity. Video production is another facet that is becoming big on the Diplomats plate as they quickly become an entertainment corporation. All this is probably due in no small part to Cam’s great understanding that the word ‘business’ is twice as long as the word ‘show’. Real street knowledge has propelled the Diplomats to reach the next level.

THE NEXT LEVEL magazine caught up with DIP SET in their offices and spoke with them for a while on what it takes to excel in the rap arena, the differences, if there were any, between the street game and the music industry, and why the Diplomats are what’s really good.

TNL: First off, let me get this right out of the way, but the DipSet Anthem(Gangsta Music) is the official summer street anthem! Did you know that this was going to be such a hit?

Jim Jones: We had a few pop offs that we were going to make singles out of, but the sample clearances hadn’t come through when it was time to run. Matter of fact, we chose Gangsta Music on the last day available to submit a single.

TNL: I love that track. When I hear it on the radio it’s crazy, but when I hear it in the club it takes me to the next level. Especially that verse where Juelz talks about “that Pyrex vision”.

Freeky Zeeky: WHOA!

TNL: How do you chose a single for release?

F.Z.: When we are formatting tracks we take the time to make sure that ay’thing is crack. Nah’Mean?!? We make sure that ay’thing can get spins on the radio or what have you. Even a hater gotta admit that our tracks is hot. In front of his girl he be like, “them niggas is wack!”, but when she slide off he is playing our shit in his CD.

TNL: Why did the Diplomats issue a double CD as their first release?

J.J.: We just got too much music. It’s also a case of us wanting to give our fans more than what they bargained for.

F.Z.: Fans is fickle like fiends! They only fuckin’ with the sickest product on the streets, so we hittin’ em with two CD’s of straight crack!

J.J.: We had several mixtapes in circulation and we took some tracks off of the mixtapes to bless our fans with the real DIP SET shit. And to introduce some of our new fans to what is really good. That is how we build a strong foundation. Don’t get it twisted now, having a popoff right out the gate is good, but trying to match that instant success is hard. When you consistently build by putting out powerful music everytime. That is how you can cake up all day. Your fans know what you are about and they know what they can expect when they see your product.

TNL: Is that what you used the Diplomat mixtapes for?

J.J.: Exactly, we do that to keep DIP SET in your ears. You can be on the block and your man’s and them might be bumpin’ Cam’s joint “Oh, Boy” from the Come Home with Me album and then you got the mixtape Vol.2 with joints he ain’t never heard yet so now he is sick ‘cuz he want the “Oh, Boy” remix.

F.Z.: Just to add, we was the first people to start releasing our own mixtape CD’s. Put that in capital letters too.

J.J.: We stay in the studio also. Going from staying on the block all day and taking that same energy, that same desire to grind and now staying in the studio all day. You not gonna stand on the block all day and not do nothing, not have nothing to show for it. That is our mindset when we are in the studio, don’t be here all day and walk out of here empty handed.

TNL: There is a lot of real street knowledge that is embodied in your music and the way you conduct your business. Why is that?

J.J.: We come from the streets. We are on the streets everyday. The streets shaped our personalities and gave us our motivation to be successful. That can’t be taken away from us, it’s in our blood.

TNL: What is more difficult, staying afloat in the street game, or staying afloat in the rap game?

J.J.: They are one in the same sometimes. The game hasn’t changed. Some of the names are different but the game is still the same. Cash rules everything around me.

TNL: What is the meaning of money to you?

J.J.: Money is what’s really good nigga! More important to me than any money though, is the love of my family, my DIPS. I had their love, trust and respect before everything else. If I lost all my money and had to start from the bottom, then with my family’s love and unity we could do it all over again because that is how we did it from the beginning.

F.Z.: That right there is more realer than what you know. That almost put a tear in my eye.

The Diplomats music is powered by Cam’ron’s charismatic confidence, but his protégé Juelz
Santana, in a relatively short time has become the man that many industry insiders are abuzz about. Juelz’ graphic lyrical descriptions take the art of storytelling in rap music to the next level.

TNL: Juelz Santana where do you get these incredible images that you rap about?

Juelz Santana: That’s all real stills. This is shit I been around all my life. When they close the door to the booth I just tell my brain to let my mouth repeat what my eyes have seen. I just let everything out.

TNL: What is so crazy about that is I am almost forty years old and you can relate to my life.

Juelz: I am the youngest of four brothers and I have always been around older dudes. I have been able to watch them live and I try to learn from their mistakes and learn from their success. I feel like you don’t have to make the same mistakes if someone has gone down that path for you. By being around older dudes I gained their experience and their insight. My mindset became advanced and that is the perspective that I bring into the booth. Right now I am watching Cam and Jim. I pay attention to their business moves so that I am not put into a situation that I am unfamiliar with.

TNL: I have heard you use the word rock four times in a verse, and each time the word had a different meaning, a different context. Where did you get that sick style?

Juelz.: What you are referring to is a rhyme format that DIP SET created. A lot of dudes are getting on to this format and putting it in their joints.

TNL: I hope the Dips are seeing part of those royalties too.

Jim Jones: I like your style brother.

TNL: I see that the Diplomats are also bringing that Harlem fashion back into the rap game.

Juelz: Harlem sets the fashion trends for Black America, therefore Harlem sets the fashion trends for the world. 125th, 145th, Dapper Dan, A.J. Lester, basically Harlem fly guys. Ask anyone in NYC what they call the Nike Air Force One and they will tell you Uptowns.

TNL: How is Diplomat Records going to change the rap game?

Jim Jones: Like I said before, the game is still the same. This time however we are playing from the position of owners. Everything comes full circle and we are not workers, we are bosses. Not to say that we don’t put in work, but from the standpoint of an owner directly invested in the success of his business. Like if you owned a barbershop, before you turn out the lights and roll down the gate you have swept floor, put the chairs back into position. You make sure everything is tight before your day is done.

TNL: I like the fact that the Diplomats are all label executives. No one is just a rapper.

F.Z.: Yeah man, part of the reason why we are who we are is that everyone brings their own something to the table. No one here just ‘raps’. Diplomats is more than music.

TNL: Explain how the Diplomats are the next level?

J.J.: Diplomats is more than music, it’s more like a movement, that y’all need to be in tune with. We are the light that illuminates the answers to any questions that are asked about the nation’s ghettos.

TNL: and that’s what’s really good!

F.Z.: No! That’s what’s really, REALLY GOOD!

Editor’s Post Interview Notes:
The Next Level spoke with the the Diplomats a week before Freeky Zekey and his DIP SET rider ‘E’ were both shot in an alleged robbery attempt. The Next Level wishes a speedy recovery to Freeky Zekey so that he may continue to produce that powerful music and solemn condolences to the family of Eric Mangum who passed away.

BILLY SUNDAY’s True Hip-Hop Stories: DJ KAY SLAY

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

the next level

True story is that I was an aspiring cub reporter for a Hip-Hop magazine with no budget. On the strength of a former NYC on-air radio personality that will remain nameless on this blog I was given the assignment to be the feature writer for this magazine. I was also given the respect by those in the industry as someone who has no connections and no clout. DJ Kay Slay was my second interview and it lasted all of two minutes. Dude answered none of my questions with a sentence longer than one word. I came back home and crafted this interview in my mind as if Kay Slay wasn’t such an asshat that felt like he was too big for rap music.

Hip Hop music will always be the property of the DJ. Since the beginning of Hip Hop, it was
the DJ’s responsibility to move the crowd. Who do you think it was that brought all his equipment from his house down to the playground. Not just the two turntables and the mixer, but the amplifiers and the speakers. Who do you think risked electrocution by powering his set with electricity from the streetlamps. Who do you think had to take that twenty second break beat and make it play for twenty minutes? Who do you think brought the microphone so that someone could speak to all those that had gathered to dance and mingle. Who do you think has been getting shitted on since the advent of sampling machines. DJ’s were about to be put out to pasture with the grafitti artists and the breakdancers. Hip Hop music is the property of the DJ. Hip Hop music needed a bad guy that had the knowledge and the courage to return it back to it’s owners. Say hello to the bad guy.

The Next Level magazine caught up with the hottest DJ in the music industry as he prepared for his weekly radio show at the HOT 97 studios. His DJ name is Kay-Slay and if you know some his aliases you probably understand why he isn’t afraid of controversy. The Drama King, as he is ofter referred to, was responsible for playing one of the most lauded street records in recent history, Nas’ “Ether”. Just like the B.I.G. track “Who Shot Ya’?” this record set off a firestorm. Kay-Slay was the only person with shoulders big enough for Nas to stand on and everyone took notice. Now their relationship has gone sour, but we are all left to look at the re-emergence of the DJ. Hip Hop music is in good hands.

TNL: Kay, how long have you been in this arena?

Kay-Slay: I have been DJ’ing for over twenty six years.

TNL: So you go back to the park jams. The birth of Hip Hop and all of that.

K.S.: Yeah, all of that.

TNL: Who was the inspiration for you to become a DJ?

K.S. Bambatta and Flash. I came up in the East River Houses on 105th Street(Harlem). Bambatta was all over the Bronx and Harlem and I used to go to every jam. Then I got me a set and I started doing my own jams. My original name was Kay-Gee. I got out the game for a minute. When I came back in ‘91 that dude from Naughty(by Nature) blew that name up so I had to switch my joint around.

TNL: Speaking of names, you have several nicknames or aliases. DJ Kay-Slay from around the way, Kay-Slay, the Drama King and the craziest one, DJ Kay-Slay a/k/a Slap Your Favorite DJ. Where do these come from?

K.S. It’s just a sign of the times in rap music. Everybody is looking for drama, for controversy. I am that man in the streets.

TNL: You say ‘the streets’ want drama?

K.S.: The streets want that hot shit. The streets decide what real rap music is. That decision is not made in skyscrapers or in the stock market. I am just tryin’ to keep that hard street flavor in the music.

TNL: You are releasing an album shortly. Is this going to have the same hard edge as your mixtapes?

K.S.: Hell Yeah! I am not going to change what I do. This is why the people holla at me. So I can’t turn my back now and stop keeping it real.

TNL: You have a track on the album featuring several of the all-time great mixtape DJ’s rapping. This is a great song and it is an important song. Tell the Next Level about it.

K.S.: It’s a hot track. It’s a historic track. These dudes have meant so much to Hip Hop music and I felt they deserved their own shine. The DJ is the foundation that Hip Hop music is built on. We started this thing and we have to keep it going.

TNL: Who are some of the artists that you like to work with?

K.S.: G-Unit, R.O.C., DIP SET, the LOX, whatever is real.

TNL: You like the dudes that keep it street?

K.S.: No question.

TNL: What else is crackin’ for DJ Kay-Slay?

K.S.: I am working on this label deal that will allow me to continue to promote the underground side of Hip Hop music and develop new artists.

TNL: You are about to take the streets to The Next Level?

K.S.: Exactly!


Thursday, August 31st, 2006


or America’s Most Wanted Next Top Mugsot Hairstyle Model.

I don’t know if you kids are up on this or not, but the writers for the program ‘America’s Next Top Model’ have been on strike. Apparently they want to get the same contract that the writers for ‘Flavor of Love’ are using. If you ask me, the writers at ‘FOL’ deserve a better deal because they are smart enough to script the catfight element into some of their episodes(and let’s never forget the hot poop). I always laugh at the fact that most people believe that the shit on these programs really happens organically and not inside the editing room with the director and producers. Anyhoo…

To pick up the programming slack for these striking writers I thought that some of the readers here might be interested in creating our own “reality” show. Here’s the premise… TYRA BANKS is running a halfway house for female convicts. The challenge will be to see which female convict can be the gulliest, most hardbody inmate and return to prison. If a contestant isn’t gully enough, she will be released from the halfway house and returned to her family. The last convict remaining in the house wins.

Here’s how you get involved… All writers will be assigned their character’s mugshot. You have to name them and describe what their criminal background is. The next step is for you to write five sentences of dialogue for your character. You can say and do anything you want, but you have to create only five sentences. My assignment as director of the program will be to stitch all the sentences together in a stream. Think of this project as kind of an experimental internets interactive multi-player ‘exquisite corpse’. Uh, yeah…

Here’s an example…

brandy sue simmons BRANDY SUE SIMMONS
BRANDY SUE was convicted of ironing her children’s clothes… while her kids were still wearing them.

If y’all don’t get from ’round that porch I will fillet y’all with my daddy’s scissors.

Who drank the last of the Kool-Aid? I’m gone pee in this container the next time.

I told you your honor I stopped passing fake checks when my momma died as respect to her.

I once ate a little bit of doodee when I tossed my girlfriends’ salad, strangely, I remember that there was a cherry tomato there too.

Yes, I stabbed her with the bank pen attached to that little chain, and I hope she gets bank pen ink poisoning!

All of the dialogue for each character won’t appear in the initial episode of course and at the end of every episode I will post a list of the cast members included. This is a pretty ambitious project for me, but all it requires of you is five minutes and a perverse sense of humor. Who feels like having some fun?


Thursday, August 31st, 2006

blu cheez

To all my peeps out there that love the NIKE Dunk shoe(KAMOJI stand up!)… put your joints on ice for at least a year.

NIKE Dunks have officially jumped the shark now that humps like JUDE LAW wear them to the beach.

jude dunks

photo from alex2.0


Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

here comes the sun lil darling

Editor’s Note: CHOCOLATE SNOWFLAKE took a trip to New Orleans to survey first hand the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She took a ton of pictures and then wrote me an emotional and heartfelt letter after returning to her hotel. It’s still impossible for me to imagine that America the beautiful could be mismanaged into Third World status, but the rate at which we have failed to prioritize our homeland concerns over liberating foreigners and subsequently have continued to give billions in aid to everyplace else, there may come the day when many other U.S. cities resemble the Ninth Ward.

My dearest of all,

New Orleans is a strange city. I imagine it was strange before Hurricane Katrina, but the ways in which the graciousness and hospitality of the people made up for the strangeness no longer hold. Not that folks aren’t still gracious. Quite the contrary, the degree of courtesy and the welcoming attitude is by far the most refreshing aspect of this trip. It’s just that it’s not quite enough to cover the economic and racial fault lines Hurricane Katrina exposed.

At our meeting today, a gentleman whose family encompasses three generations of progressive unionism spoke to us about what’s going on in the Southern Crescent, as he called it. The politicians, many of whom were elected on the backs of the labor movement — which comprises mostly of teachers and manual laborers — and the christian charity network of churches, have seized the “opportunity” presented by Hurricane Katrina to try to break the unions and eradicate anything resembling a living wage.

The public schools were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The school system lost millions of dollars in facilities and supplies — libraries, books, pencils, calculators, desks, etc. — not to mention the emotional toll it’s taken on the children who look toward the routine of school and seeing their classmates as a constant in lives that are already in turmoil by displacement. AFT, the teacher’s union, has raised a million and a half dollars which it has distributed directly to teachers in the form of cash grants to help them get situated, and find temporary shelter for them and their families.

So what does New Orleans do? They fire all the teachers, reconstitute the public schools as charter schools and tell teachers they’ll rehire them but only as non-union employees. If teachers are caught discussing they’re salaries, they’re fired. Students who can’t afford charter schools get rerouted to other districts, or are given vouchers for partial payment of tuition (with no collatoral to fund the other half) or are simply told that their schools won’t be rebuilt and that the teachers aren’t coming back. Naturally this impacts poor students, many of whom happen to be black and Latino.

Mayor Nagin has apparently also decided to locate a garbage dump — where all the debris from the “clean up” will be deposited — in the middle of an impoverished Vietnamese community that abuts a nature preserve.

The downtown area, where I’m staying, is a twilight zone. Within a two block radius of my hotel, you’d never know that a natural disaster went down. But turn a wrong corner and the smell, the boarded up stores, the watermarks on the buildings and the nastiest pigeons I have ever seen tell another story.

It may sound trivial, but when the pigeons — the pentultimate urban scavenger — are scrawny oily-necked avian refugees with matted feathers openly squabbling in the street over a crust of old bread smeared with shit, you know it’s bad.

The upcoming elections here are a joke. 26 contenders and not one of them able to do a damn thing about anything. Everyone I’ve spoken to laughs at Nagin, but the alternatives are insiders, the insiders’ insiders and the crazy uncle who prah’lee molested someone or something at some point and can’t get a job doing anything else. So he might as well be mayor.

The most tragic thing of all is that our people — and by that I mean simply human beings, our brothers, our sisters, our children, our parents — suffer while 20 miles away someone is sitting quite comfortably in their living room, watching it all on the evening news.

My cab driver from the airport — her father died in a hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

The porter, Ken, who brought my bags up, fled for his life to Texas with his parents in tow and was only able to return because he works at the only union hotel in town and therefore had a job waiting for him when the place reopened. He’s crashing on a friend’s couch because he can’t afford an apartment. His rent used to be $500 for a one bedroom; now, with the lack of housing and a general state of desperation, one bedrooms go for anything from $800 to $2300.

RiverWalk, the Mississippi River promenade where you can buy beignets and cafe au lait has been cleaned, Foot Locker has reopened, but the library is still boarded up and there are no public schools.

The moneyed elite has figured out that with HK, they can rebuild the city the way they want — New Orleans used to be a 70% black city, now it’s about 30-40% and dropping — as people seem less and less inclined to return to no homes, no jobs, no churches, no neighborhoods and the city uses eminent domain to seize their property for redevelopment.

But folks sure can drink and play some music. Whoo-wee. Good times.

As our speaker said today: The Southern Crescent of Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama was, according to the census, the poorest in the nation in the 1930s, the poorest in the 1960s and remained the poorest in 2000. The Federal Government didn’t abandon these people after Hurricane Katrina. They were abandoned a long time ago. Katrina just blew the covers off the bed of neglect on which Fat Cats, Greed and Corruption indulge in an unholy menage-a-disaster.

It’s depressing beyond belief. And I get to go home on Sunday. Can you imagine how depressed some of these folks must be?

Well, I’m thoroughly sick and disgusted. Tomorrow we go out and build a house for someone. It’s a drop, but even a drop is better than nothing. In the meantime, I’m going to lie on the bed, turn on the TV and escape into the 100 Most Shocking Moments on Television. Its a VH1 Marathon, so I’m guaranteed no Katrina coverage.

Love you, miss you,