Saturday, February 28, 2009

#49 Album of the Decade- Diplomatic Immunity

#49- The Diplomats- Diplomatic Immunity (2003)

(Note: Since Blogger has been deleting any posts with direct links to mp3s, I'm going to practice some synergy for now by putting any track links on TANBR Deleted Scenes.)
Dipset, the Harlem crew originally made up of Cam'ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, and Freaky Zeeky, had a habit of referring to themselves as "more than music, a movement" on their first LP, a double CD with Def Jam. In the years since its release, the Diplomats expanded recklessly (I gave up after downloading my first Dipset Euro mixtape) and eventually disintegrated over bullshit. Their biggest supporters were hip White bloggers--guilty--and those bloggers disguised the chasm between the crew's esteemed reputation on the Internet and their negligible influence on the pop landscape. The movement never really happened, but we have 2003 as the high-water mark of what could have been.

That's due, in part, to the fact that Diplomatic Immunity caught lightning in a bottle. If it had been released one year earlier or one year later, it would have had a fraction of the impact that it did. The Internet, as I mentioned, was a big part of its success. They were able to curry buzz on  message boards and pass tracks across the web with the first widespread availability of broadband. At the same time, we hadn't yet reached the point at which artists lost significant amounts of record sales from illegal downloads. It was the best of both worlds.

The Diplomats were also fortunate to be working at Roc-a-Fella's Baseline Studios at the first part of the decade. Kanye West lent one track, Just Blaze produced the seven best songs, and the Heatmakerz were responsible for a whopping eleven cuts on the album. Together, those producers, working just under the radar and way under the prices they would eventually demand, wrote the blueprint of the chipmunk-soul style of sampling that would explode by the next year. The Diplomats were able to have a consistent, recognizable style that was still wholly original.

That style in the beats had to be the cohesive element because the rappers are all over the place. You have two great rappers (Cam and Juelz) who are at their absolute hungriest prime, one rapper who is mediocre (Freaky), and one who is terrible but funny (Jimmy). Since Killa Cam and Juelz take the lion's share of the verses and are joined by above average guest spots from Dip-associates like J.R. Writer and Hell Rell (spitting over a phone from jail no less), this is not a problem. On this album--even more than Come Home with Me, the record that afforded him the opportunity to put the Diplomats on--Cam'ron pioneered the free-associative, wacky flow that ended up being way more influential than could have been expected at the time. For instance, he actually has the gravitas to pull off these rhymes on "I Really Mean It": I'm a genius, Papadopolous/Never leaning on your Zenith (I really mean it)/Killa, bag me more mutts, they actually all ducks/Caddy more trucks, it's Daddy Warbucks." (This blog probably would have been called Papadopolous if there wasn't already a blog called that.*) At the same time, he can mix in something as personal as "I just wanna see my son piss in the potty." Juelz raps with a lot of sound and fury, but he mostly rhymes about his propensity for wearing bandanas. It's all good. 

Does Diplomatic Immunity have to be two hours long? No. And the sequencing makes very little sense. For example, "Bout It, Bout It Pt. 3" with Master P should have been right after--oh wait, that song shouldn't exist. However, the fact that the ripples of this album are still being felt is enough evidence that it belongs on this list.

*It's now defunct. I think Jon Caramanica used to run it, but I can't find it now.

No comments: