At 19 years old, the Diplomats' Juelz Santana was blessed to have the influence of older people in his life. Growing up in Harlem, New York, Santana saw that some of his older brothers were hustling in the streets. Later he started his own illegal grind, traveling back and forth from the city to Syracuse, New York, in the pursuit of greenbacks.
Now that he's in the music biz, Juelz's main role models have been his groupmates and the CEOs of Diplomat Records, Jimmy Jones and Cam'ron.
"Cam just did seven songs in the studio last night, and he's almost done," Santana said Wednesday about his friend's new album, which is slated to drop later this year.
Juelz, whom Cam discovered years ago, has had a serious work ethic instilled in him by Killa and Jones. Although he performed on Cam's 2000's album, S.D.E., the teen's major breakthrough was last year on Cam's smash, Come Home With Me. Since then the Dips have been everywhere, releasing a flurry of mixtapes as well as the marginally successful group album, Diplomatic Immunity, in March.
"Diplomatic Immunity is certified gold," he said, scoffing at any notion that the LP was not a success. "That's all we really wanted from it. It was to certify our street credibility. We did an album for the streets. We didn't expect the Diplomats to go triple platinum. It was to promote me some more and get Jimmy out there, an unknown artist. We didn't go no way for radio. We did an album for the streets. Take that."
Santana's first solo LP, From Me to You, is scheduled to drop on August 19 and the energetic flow pro says that the record should satisfy both the streets and airwave listeners.
Although he's looking at "Santana's Town" (he owns a clothing store by the same name in Harlem), where Cam'ron repeatedly yells, "Dip set, Dip set," on the hook, to possibly be the first single, Satana says he's got other choices. "Okay, Okay," his feverish warning to the industry that he cannot be touched on the mic, and the club scorcher "Ladies" are also heavy in the streets. Meanwhile "You Oughta Know" has the type of catchy sample (courtesy of Billy Joel) that stays in your head, similar to the one that made the Diplomats' most popular song, "Oh Boy," so big.
While so far his Diplomatic familia occupy the only guest slots on the LP, M.O.P. are supposed get on a track, but have not recorded any vocals yet.
M.O.P. and the Dips were set to go out on the road with State Property for the Roc Army Tour in May. However, since Jay-Z announced his headlining role on the Roc the Mic Tour, the Roc Army Tour has been shelved (see "50 Cent, Jay-Z Set To 'Roc The Mic' ").
"I'm just telling you the story, and you take it as you want to take it," Santana said with regard to the botched tour plans. "The fact was, we was supposed to be doing Roc-A-Fella's tour, [and it would include] everybody on Roc-A-Fella except Jay-Z. Doesn't make sense to me. Jay is on Roc-A-Fella and he's going on tour with 50 Cent. Why are you not going on the Roc Army Tour? I have no problems with this, though. I'm just saying — it's a Roc-A-Fella tour and it's your label."
Juelz and the Dips were left scratching their heads even more when the entire roster of the would-be Roc Army Tour were called to join Jay on the Roc the Mic Tour — except them.
"Basically you leaving us with no tour," he said. "We're caked up anyway. We gonna find other ways to do it."
Even though he's bewildered, it would take something catastrophic to get Juelz down these days. He's excited about his new LP and the fact that Cam has named him the vice president of Diplomat Records. Plus the wildest member of his crew, Freeky Zeeky, is in good health after being shot in April (see "Member Of Cam'ron's Diplomats Wounded In Deadly Shootout").
"Zeeky's chilling," Santana said. "He's getting his strength back up, but you know Zeeky, he's up and running. When everything is going good for you, something is bound to go wrong. It's life. N---as get up in sh--, not being at the right place at the right time. You can't be on point 24/7. You could try to be, but two seconds is all it takes to get got."