The love Harlem shows for their Dip-set cannot be described — it must be some sort of airborne virus that only affects people above 125th Street. Ever since Mase first bowed out of the game, Cam’ron and his crew have stormed Harlem proudly waving their pink flags. The Diplomats have taken thug posturing to a new level, resembling a parody worthy of The Chappelle Show. I could continue on about the Diplomats, but in the end they don’t give a fuck about what I have to say, they only care about reppin’ the streets. But ultimately, the greatest strength of Cam, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones opens them up to fierce criticism.
Jones has been riding shotgun next to his high school friend Cam’ron from the jump. He finally took the driver’s seat for the Diplomats’ debut, 2003’s Diplomatic Immunity, which went gold without radio or video play. With limited experience on wax, Jones dove in head first to his first solo project, On My Way to Church. A self-proclaimed hustler, Jones is not an emcee — it’s a stretch to even call him a rapper. And On My Way to Church is an ill-fated venture that attempts to capitalize on industry connections rather than skills.
Jones’s style mixes Pac’s intense thuggish flow and Cam’ron’s nonsensical rhythmic delivery. Take this section from “Lovely Days/Memory Lane”: “I’m burnin’ purple jus’ watchin’ my ghetto birds (okay)/ And peep the circle I’ll tell you its several birds (peep game)/ We gettin’ guac, we hustlin’ peddle birds (that yay)/ And fuck the cops, we bustin’ our metal birds (Desert Eag’z)/ We from the block we love our Stiletto birds (hey baby!).” Over more than twenty tracks, Jones not only enlists the Diplomats but also T.I., Bun B, Bizzie Bone and Chico Debarge to diversify the lyrical content. On “End of the Road,” T.I. and living legend Bun B lace the tightest verses of the album, riding a sped-up soul sample with a slick southern drawl.
To Jones’s credit, On My Way to Church does provide a diverse and banging selection of beats — the beat on “Certified Gangstas” was destined to become a hood classic. But beyond a few tracks, On My Way to Church will only appeal to true die-hard Diplomats fans. Jim Jones and the Diplomats have heard it all before; I just hope next time they hit the pen and pad harder and lay off the purple haze and sizzurp.