I had to post this 1995 ‘Vibe’ spread of the Wu again, just because Frankmatic reminded me of just how incredible this smokey Norman Watson portrait of the group is. ODB’s Phat Farm rugby and Rae’s Polo Sport and oversized mobile phone stay amazing, or as RZA would put it, wemarkable. I was also a fan of an earlier shoot of all nine members from early 1994 (which spent a few months on my wall in colour form when I was younger courtesy of HHC), with Champion ‘C’s, Meth’s phenomenal plaid shirt, the mysterious ‘Q’ and ‘Down Low’ brands and U-God rocking the New Balance 577 very nicely indeed. Full crew shots were a rarity, but they always had me hunting for the gear on show.
But that’s me living in rap’s past. In fact, I was recently reminded of the Starter Bell Biv Devoe collection of hats and jackets that was meant to lead to a Boyz II Men collaboration too (I guess the denim shorts, shirt, tie and cap look was deemed lucrative), which had me hunting again.
I’m a hypocrite. After decrying rap fans stuck in the past on this blog (and seeing as one of my pet hates is blogs writing that “As you may have noticed…” bullshit as if they’ve got a following, I won’t pretend anyone read the original post but it ran as follows: stop living in fucking 1993) I realised that I’m musically frozen in 2003 when I thought the Roc would become the ultimate rap powerhouse, that Cam and Jay were friends and that M.O.P. and Victoria Beckham might not be the worst collaboration ever. I was even optimistic when Damon Dash (remember ‘America’ magazine?) was lording it up in a Chelsea property, before he was evicted in early 2005. Don’t pretend you didn’t think that the Roc-A-Fella roster was remarkable too. Then it all fell apart.
The Diplomats recorded some of their best work around that era too, and Diplomat Records put out classics, whether Def Jam or Koch were involved. 2003’s ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is the best release from that era. Then there were insane amounts of mix CDs that friends would bring back in stacks from New York visits, full of Heatmakerz productions or amazing Purple City performances. For my money, and taking affiliates into account, Dipset are the greatest rap group of all time. They ticked all the necessary boxes — insane production choices, goonery, attire and fly gibberish. That’s what I look for in my music.
Yeah, you can throw down Native Tongues and the Wu, but if you’re on a lengthy roadtrip, those jazz breaks and Staten’s Hudson on PCP flows are going to grind you down. You will never, ever bore of a healthy dose of the Dips. Especially ‘The Answer’ by Juelz and Cam’ron’s ‘Bigger Picture.’ And considering that you could seemingly hoard a terabyte of Dipset tracks and still be hunting the stadium rock samples that never cleared, you could make it a return roadtrip too without skips. Well, I might skip ‘Magic’ by JR Writer for being a little too dumb, but the rest would play uninterrupted.
But I’m white and white people fucking love Dipset. Miss Info’s recent Q&A with the reformed crew and the subsequent show made me ponder just how much I wish the Diplomats continued their ascent before the 2007 disintegration of the group. The fact that Jimmy brought out ASAP Rocky (who was recently in the studio with AraabMUZIK) as an example of Harlem’s future is both heartening and depressing, leaving me wondering as to whether the new Diplomats album would ultimately emerge sounding dated and half-arsed next to rap’s new breed. That hiatus as a group dynamic could prove sonically harmful, but as a live act, their individual achievements make for the best setlists ever and Miss Info asked some strong questions, including matters of Killa’s claim that, “I get computers ‘putin” from ‘Get ‘Em Girls.’ In his answer he reveals that he’s prone to the crime of retweeting without crediting the source.
Dame gets a bad rap, but no matter how obnoxious the antics, I respect his business approach. The haircut tantrum in ‘Backstage’ directed at Kevin Liles — instigated by a promo jacket but hinting at a bigger problem — should have been turned into a million comedy gifs, but you don’t make a mark by keeping your mouth shut. Still, that footage of Dame losing it in a Def Jam boardroom that was released a couple of years back wasn’t half as entertaining.
Combat Jack’s piece on him two years ago was tremendous, dissecting the psyche of Mr. Dash and I’ve been enjoying a YouTube highlight reel of his finest moments on camera, including the aforementioned shouting match on tour (incidentally, that video of DMX that XXL posted recently is sad, bar the deeply quotable “Little Beet?” query — especially after watching a 1999 Darkman in ‘Backstage’) and some legendary asshole soundbites. But a great Dame interview on HiphopDX last week addressed that moment and showcases some previously unseen humility.
With Steve Stoute, another Dame opponent, doing the promo rounds for this excellent book, ‘The Tanning of America,’ this footage of him talking RBK, hip-hop marketing at corporate level and how it shouldn’t be done plus related topics, ends with some chat on the Dash subject. Mr. Stoute is a businessman worth listening to. Lesson 101 from the Dash affair seems to be the importance of not burning bridges on the road to riches. Whatever your opinion of Damon, he was instrumental in aiding and abetting multiple movements that set the stage for Mr. West to go couture last night in Paris, with Dash getting his hipster on while everyone else was still in voluminous denim.
On a wildly unrelated note, this French flick looks like fun, with ‘Sleepless Night’ continuing the Gallic winning streak when it comes to thrillers. So much so in fact, that it’s already being optioned for a remake. Because unlike France, America has run out of cinematic ideas entirely.