Camâ€™Ron buys the color purple, Jim Jones buys the word â€œballinâ€™â€ and Juelz makes Nike commercials. What does Duke do, well, he had a parrot named Kejo, but he says it â€œneeded to go.â€ And, Freekey is enjoying the fruits of his labor while occasionally comparing himself to famous Biblical characters. â€œIf you read the Bible and have knowledge of it, Moses led his whole crew and tribe to the Promise Land away from the Pharaoh who was trying to destroy them,â€ says Freekey, adding he â€œfelt in tune with Moses.â€
Sure, Freekey Zekey and Duke Da God are not making appearances on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper or driving purple Lamborghinis, but if Dipset were a combination plate from an American Chinese food restaurant, losing Duke and Freekey would be like forgetting the fortune cookie and soy sauce.
“I think seeing someone being killed and hearing someone being killed is different.”
Duke Da God
Format: In April, Harlem rapper, Cam’Ron, is on 60 Minutes explaining the “no snitchin'” to police policy that he lives by and glamorizes to youths. What is your opinion on the “no snitchin'” message that rappers are glamorizing to youths?
Duke Da God: I always say that hip-hop gets bored after awhile and the same things that were going on back in the days â€“ I remember N.W.A. did the Niggaz4life album and I think they said the word nigger like 300 times on that album, I think they counted every time they said the word nigger. On their album, they were saying shit like, â€˜nigger, nigger, nigger, niggerâ€™ all types of shit, but itâ€™s like they got to keep pulling up issues and try to make it real big. The N-word, the B-word and stuff thatâ€™s been in the music for the last 20 years, at least 20 years, N.W.A. was out back in `89. Itâ€™s like they got to dig stuff back up. It keeps repeating itself, the same problems that happened before are happening all over again with controlling the content of the music.
Format: Prior to Don Imus saying “nappy headed ho” on ABC and NBC radio, the general perception was that the media and the African-American community did not severely address offensive rap lyrics. Why did it take the comments of a white radio jockey to raise extensive concern by the media and the African-American community, towards offensive rap lyrics?
Duke Da God: I’m saying as far as radio and all that, that’s cool. As far as TV, radio and certain programs when they say those words, it’s cool for that, but as far as a form of expressing yourself, you can sing bitch and it can come across so smooth and it goes unnoticed, but if you’re just saying it, it’s more vulgar. I feel that it’s OK to do that for the clean [version], for the radio. I know the radio says bitch, ass, sometimes on the radio. It’s OK to eliminate that, but as far as the masters, the dirty edits I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do, because you can sing the word bitch or ass, like ‘Oh, give me some ass,’ and it sounds so smooth and goes undetected. It’s how people feel and if you take the feelings out of people’s music then it won’t be nothing no more. It’s like, Russell [Simmons] made it already, you know, you don’t have to do it like that, but everybody is kind of different.
“I tend to fall back and let the artists shine. I donâ€™t try to overshadow the shine and give the people what they want.”
Format: Recently, Russell Simmons appears on CNN and announces that “ho,” “bitch” and “nigger” are “extreme curse words” and wants to ban the words on clean versions of rap on radio and television. In your opinion, what effect will this possible change have on rappers and their message to youths?
Duke Da God: That’s a good question, you know what I mean, but I just – you know, I don’t know, that’s a good question right there. I can’t speak on behalf of every black person, but that’s a good question right there. My guess is that itâ€™s awareness. The way I see it, when Imus got fired the Reverend [Jesse Jackson] and everybody put the pressure on that situation for Imus to get fired. I guess the network ainâ€™t want to go through all the headaches that the Reverend was going to give them, so they let him go. Theyâ€™re trying to clean up [rap] a little bit, but like I said, itâ€™s going through what itâ€™s going through. Deloris Tucker was doing the same shit. As far as the Imus situation and why it took a white person to shed light on the situation, I guess happened the way it just happened. The Reverend and everybody are trying to clean up the music, because they donâ€™t want to be hypocrites.
Format: In a XXL interview, you say that big name producers are not needed for Diplomat records, however, currently producers like Timberland are more popular than the rappers who rap over the music.
Duke Da God: It donâ€™t matter, because we donâ€™t look for a producer to make us hot, weâ€™re hot without them. We got a message we got to get across and we donâ€™t have to run around bagging for a hit record. We tend to make a hit record a hit record. Most of the time, producers donâ€™t even make the beats, they get someone else to make it and they co-sign it. Sometimes they ghost-produce like Dre does.
Format: What were the challenges and differences in making Dipset: More Than Music Vol. 2 compared to volume one?
Duke Da God: In 2005, that was before a lot of big records came out. That was before Juelzâ€™s whistle record, that was before Jimâ€™s ballinâ€™ record and that was before â€œSuck It or Not.â€ That was before a lot of big records. Even if you look at the two different covers, you can see where we were then and how weâ€™ve grown so much now. Thatâ€™s why I named this project More Than Music Vol. 2. Itâ€™s like we grew up and evolved better, even if you look at the cover. It was hard to get up with Jim and in the studios, everyone tours, we all know what we need to do, itâ€™s Dipset.
“If a serial killer live next door to me in apartment 4E, I would probably go there and murk him out myself.”
Format: Your roles with the Diplomats are various and you have a lot of responsibilities. Does your celebrity interfere with the tasks in your daily operations?
Duke Da God: No, Iâ€™m real humble and I understand what it takes to run a company. I tend to fall back and let the artists shine. I donâ€™t try to overshadow the shine and give the people what they want. I keep it real business-like throughout the day. Iâ€™m going to promote the artists.
Format: Does Camâ€™Ronâ€™s celebrity anchor the other Diplomats?
Duke Da God: Heâ€™s the leader. When they thing of G-Unit, they think of 50 Cent, same thing with Jay-Z. Itâ€™s just like that, but everybody is a star. Juelz, Jim, Hell Rell and J.R. are all stars. Juelz shine, too, but with the younger generation itâ€™s Hell Rell and J.R., theyâ€™re up and coming and have a lot of potential to shine.
Format: Do you feel the Diplomats have a moral responsibility for the music and the opinions they express?
Duke Da God: We do, but thatâ€™s really up to the parents. There are movies out there. As long as movies are being seen we can do the same thing in audio. I think visual is worse than audio. I think seeing someone being killed and hearing someone being killed is different.
Format: If a serial killer lived in apartment 4E what would you do?
Duke Da God: If a serial killer live next door to me in apartment 4E, I would probably go there and murk him out myself.
Format: You have a parrot, right?
Duke Da God: Yeah, I had a bird, a macaw, but I got rid of him, I think he needed to go. His name was Kejo.
Photo by: Frank Antonio
Format: Please explain your role in Dipset and how it was formed.
Freekey Zeekey: Basically, it formed way back in the day. I met Jim Jones in Grade 3. We were both in summer school for science. He was going around and some kid dropped a subway token and I grabbed for it and he grabbed for it, and we bumped heads together. In Grade 3, the simple things mean a lot. I came to find out he lived on the fifth floor of the projects. His grandmotherâ€™s name was Sally and my motherâ€™s name is Sally. When youâ€™re in Grade 3, itâ€™s like wow, weâ€™re cousins already. We always knew Cam. Cam got brought to the East Side with his moms. We all ran together at this place called 1199 where we all used to play basketball. Itâ€™s been going on for 18, 19 years. One day, were in the back of my uncleâ€™s car, we were maybe 15 at the time, and we saw a car parked by the fire hydrant with both its tires on the sidewalk and he wasnâ€™t getting away with it, the police guy was giving him a ticket. When the cop walked around to get his license plate number he looked and tore the slip up and kept it moving. We looked and said wait a minute, because how could that guy just do that when my uncle just got a ticket for walking into the store. My uncle said, â€˜That man got diplomat plates, he can do what he want when he wants,â€™ and that stuck with us. That just formulated once Cam got signed. Everyone has been on Camâ€™s albums since he was a solo artist.
Format: Right now, Dipsetâ€™s popularity has made it a target for scrutiny, specifically comments from Tru Life. What are your thoughts on people like him?
Freekey Zeekey: With him, honestly, and truly honestly, I have no idea what this dude looks like. Well Iâ€™ve seen a picture of him, but I donâ€™t know who he is. Heâ€™s void in my thoughts, but when youâ€™re on the top everybody tries to shoot for the throne. Sometimes people try to do everything in their power to get on and they do retarded things like come at a lion when theyâ€™re a cub. He got demolished, but all in all, he thought he could make a mark, but he donâ€™t understand that heâ€™s a rapper and our group is a movement. People call themselves Dipset and theyâ€™re riders. People will honestly die for us. He has no wings, he never did. Thatâ€™s just a little boy playing in a field and he just got trampled over.
“People call themselves Dipset and theyâ€™re riders. People will honestly die for us.”
Format: What are your thoughts on Camâ€™Ron and 50 Centâ€™s beef?
Freekey Zeekey: Iâ€™m going to do what a president always does by overseeing the situation. Right now itâ€™s just him and 50 and Cam is roasting him. I sit back, but Iâ€™m right there. Thereâ€™s no way in the world that somebody will jump and I wonâ€™t be there also. You dig.
Format: There is a lot of speculation on Dipsetâ€™s unity. Is there tension in the group?
Freekey Zeekey: Everyone wants to make up a situation. Iâ€™m going to keep it funky. Weâ€™re all a group, but we all branched off once we reached a status where we can develop on ourselves. Cam does what he does, Juelz does what he does, Jim does what he does and Iâ€™m doing what I do. Jimâ€™s single just took off and we all get a per cent of the situation. The better he do the more we eat! Weâ€™re all happy that all of us are becoming successful. Itâ€™s just people talking a whole lot of hoopla.
“It was real hard, we were in the hole $4 million and a nine-to-five was no way no how going to take us out of debt no matter how much overtime we did.”
Format: How was the experience of coming out of prison and walking into Dipsetâ€™s successes?
Freekey Zeekey: It was a bittersweet situation. It was bitter, because I couldnâ€™t enjoy it. I felt like I was Moses, I felt the Promised Land. If you read the Bible and have knowledge of it, Moses led his whole crew and tribe to the Promise Land away from the Pharaoh who was trying to destroy them, but soon as he made it there they opened up the gates and he passed away. I felt in tune with Moses at the time, because when you go jail itâ€™s like a living death, youâ€™re not around at all. If you donâ€™t have money or the right tools there is no way to get in contact with anybody, especially if they donâ€™t come to see you. It was bittersweet. It was sweet to see they did make it. Everything I did, hitting the streets hard and risking my life to keep Diplomat Records alive finally paid off. I wasnâ€™t in the streets hustling just to get a coat, ring or chain. Anything or everything I did I sent up to Diplomat Records to keep us afloat. It was real hard, we were in the hole $4 million and a nine-to-five was no way no how going to take us out of debt no matter how much overtime we did. I took the sacrifice in that situation to keep us afloat and they pulled the horse by the reigns and road off into the sunset. Now, itâ€™s easier for me, because I did the hard part and theyâ€™re making it easy for me.
Format: How did you get by day to day in prison?
Freekey Zeekey: In jail, someone will notice or see a change in your character if youâ€™re fronting or acting like something youâ€™re not, because youâ€™re with these people for 24 hours and seven days a week for years upon years. You canâ€™t fake being somebody else that entire time, the mask will be revealed. Of course, a couple times I had to braw and smack dudes up and kick their face in, because of the fact that people tried to make a status for themselves seeing the fact that Iâ€™m president of Diplomat Records. Iâ€™m in general population, Iâ€™m not in PC. Iâ€™m rolling with the same dudes that got life, the dudes that got 22 years, 17 years and to get status, because they know theyâ€™re not going to hit the streets or theyâ€™ll be at an age where no one cares about what and who they are. Thatâ€™s how they live their lifestyle and they like to be king of the jail. A couple times I had to knock dudesâ€™ heads off. Then they saw I wasnâ€™t playing and I handle my business, they said this guy isnâ€™t a scared rapper. After that, after you get to know people there are lots of smart and intelligent guys in jail. There are architects in jail, true artist that can draw in jail, poets, engineers, thereâ€™s a lot of lawyers, well not lawyers, but they know the law so well â€“ Cochran, rest in peace, would have been like, â€˜I need you on my joint.â€™ Once you get to know people, nobody is like this tough nail type dude that walks around with a big knife everyday and wants to chop up people.
“A couple times I had to knock dudesâ€™ heads off. Then they saw I wasnâ€™t playing and I handle my business, they said this guy isnâ€™t a scared rapper.”