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All in Favor of the Dipset Reunion, Say ‘I’

Johnny Nunez, Getty Images

Reunions are nothing new to hip-hop. Over the course of the last three decades, many groups, frequent collaborators and everything in between have decided to split and go their separate ways, only to realign when tempers have ceased or the respective parties’ financial situations dictate they come together again. EPMD, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Mobb Deep are just a few examples of partners-in-rhyme that have had a change of heart and let bygones be bygones to resume a musical partnership.

The trend has seen a significant increase in the last five years alone, with a myriad of groups announcing plans to reunite and record new material. The most publicized and ballyhooed of these was 50 Cent and G-Unit sending the rap world into a frenzy during New York City radio station Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam concert. And while the initial fanfare pushed the Unit’s name back to the forefront for a couple of months, the buzz began to wane a bit going into the latter part of 2014. The jury is still out on if the crew can come close to matching the quality of the material recorded in their heyday.

Following this trend is Harlem ambassadors Dipset, who kicked off the new year with a blazing hot “freestyle” session during a trip to Funkmaster Flex’s evening show on Hot 97. With all four core members in tow, Dipset proceeded to turn the airwaves into their own lyrical jungle-gym, with Jim Jones leading-off, Cam’ron batting clean-up and Juelz Santana doing his best Mariano Rivera impression with the closer — Freekey Zekey offered some playful bars at the start. All members rose to the occasion and were the talk of rap Twitter for that evening and the next day earlier this month.

‘Have My Money,’ a new track that will live on the group’s upcoming mixtape, was also unleashed, which received a favorable reception from fans and critics alike. With a tour also in the works, we’re only left to ask ourselves one thing: do the people really care about a Dipset reunion in 2015?

Listen to Dipset’s ‘Have My Money’

Much has changed since Cam and company’s heyday from 2002 to 2007. New York City and its traditional brand of street rap no longer has the hypnotic hold it once had over listeners. There’s a lack of new, homegrown talent crossing the threshold from a dope prospect to a viable star. The sound of the streets is secondary to a sound that is unique becoming all the rage these days. Even titans such as Rick Ross, Jeezy and T.I. have experienced a dip in sales and overall popularity, with “safer” acts such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake all but shunning the hardcore demographic and leapfrogging the veterans in terms of musical success and appeal. Names that have been consistently putting in work over the past decade are barely keeping up with the new jacks.

Another thing is consistency, something that all members of Dipset have struggled with at one time or another. Cam’ron has admittedly been on a roll over the past year with his ‘First of the Month’ series and has stayed in the social loop via Instagram — the rapper and his girlfriend JuJu’s exploits are constantly showcased. However, he hasn’t released a solo album in over five years (‘Crime Pays’ arrived in 2009), including his reported collaborative project with A-Trak, which was announced early in 2014, and has yet to come to fruition.

Juelz Santana’s last solo LP, ‘What the Game’s Been Missing!’ came nearly a decade ago and he’s been extremely unreliable when it comes to announcing projects and actually releasing them. Although more than three years removed from his last album, Jim Jones has been the most active of the three over the past decade, releasing a number of mixtapes, most notably his ‘Vampire Life’ series and has stayed visible due to his forays into reality television with ‘Love & Hip Hop’ and ‘Chrissy & Mr. Jones.’

Not to mention that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard talks of a reunion between these guys. In 2010, following an unofficial disbanding in the latter half of the aughts, the crew announced plans to again join forces, releasing the stellar track ‘Salute.’ Longtime Dipset stans were nostalgic and excited to see what was next to come. But the hype was premature and nothing materialized but broken promises.

Listen to Dipset’s ‘Salute’

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The crew gave it another try in May of 2014, with the Just Blaze-produced loosie, ‘Dips—s,’ featuring DJ A-Trak — the Fool’s Gold founder had recently formed an unexpected alliance with Cam’ron over that past year. Then all was relatively quiet again. So fans can’t be blamed if reunion news receives a side-eye and they chalk it up to the Harlemites crying wolf yet again. Dipset loyalists don’t want another dose of false hope.

However, the Diplomats don’t seem to be playing games this time around. Cam’ron is as visible now as he was half a decade ago and it’s not like Juelz is doing anything of note to keep himself busy — unless there’s a new solo album coming in 2015. Jim Jones’ solo star has faded a bit, which likely made him realize this reunion may be his best bet — or he may fall into the obscurity of fringe-relevance. The potential success of a new mixtape could reignite their collective flame and add on a few years of viability to their careers.

But, most importantly, the people want to see this reunion. A radio freestyle with the entire clique present had to suffice as a late Christmas present as-is. The thought of a new collection of Harlem-tinged hymns makes more than a few rap nerds scream like a little girl. Many rap acts lose touch with what pops in the world of music with the passage of time, but Dipset is the polar opposite of that. Their movement is as strong as any on a grassroots level, plus they have more than enough charm and pizazz to win over the younger rap heads who were still playing tee-ball when Cam’ron was donning bathrobes on mixtape covers.

And last, but not least, the aforementioned freestyle and song is nothing short of banoodles. Produced by Vinny Idol, ‘Have My Money’ is a sure-shot banger with everyone going for broke and Jimmy ad-libbing on the end of the track like it’s 2002 again. Once regarded as the third wheel of the trio, Jones has definitely improved over the years and sounds as hungry as ever on these last few songs, arguably stealing the show. He has a brash exuberance that’s infectious. His improvement also bodes well for the group’s upcoming projects, as he is light years ahead of where he was lyrically heading into ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ — it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to even outshine Cam.

Speaking of Killa, we all know that when motivated, he’s one of the most witty and effortlessly charismatic artists in the game. But, to the chagrin of fans, that motivation comes and goes, causing some seemingly mailed-in performances. During the Flex freestyle, Cam’ron was witty, arrogant as ever and in rare form. King Jaffe Jo also came prepared for game-time on the group’s new buzz cut as well, nonchalantly insinuating having relations with Mariah Carey and giving his notorious ‘puting a rest and opting to go with a blazing, no-frills 16. Juelz Santana had to go a cappella during the radio freestyle, which may have caused for his uneven performance, but he showed out on ‘Have My Money’ and sounded like the exuberant baby-faced killer that the streets touted as next up in the ’00s.

Watch Dipset Freestyle for Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97

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‘Have My Money’ may not be on the level of their classic material, but it’s excellent in its own right and certainly a step in the right direction. The chemistry is still there, the lyrics are solid and their ear for production hasn’t slipped, evidenced by the exquisite, bluesy Vinny Idol selection. DJ A-Trak possibly being involved with the beats on this tape is kind of a wild card and we have yet to see how well his sound meshes with the Diplomats. However, with his track record as a respected DJ and innovator in the realm of audiophiles, it sounds promising.

They should stick to pleasing their core audience on a new mixtape instead of attempting to step too far out of their comfort zone as far as producers and guest features. The last thing the people want to hear is Dipset far-removed from their roots after such a long-awaited reunion. They could be primed for a big year in 2015, and assist in helping New York City slowly emerge from its punch-drunk stupor. While we hope they don’t drop the ball yet again, like most things in life, only time will tell. The potential reward of a braggadocious musical treasure is too enticing for a rap fan to turn their back on. As a day-one follower, sometimes you have to take a gamble that they’ll return to form.

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