Diplomatic Immunity: A 10th Anniversary Reflection
In 2003, Dipset was everything. The pink polo assigned to me by my newfound prep school proclivities were the closest that I would ever get to being Cameron Giles. But in my dreams, diamond-encrusted medallions hung low, overwhelming the paisley crown adorning my head — necessities of a ghetto prince. But that was then and this is now. It’s 2013 and out of the corner of my eye, I catch the waning moments of YouTube’s most successful parody.
Fake “Harlem Shake” in the cut; that’s a scary sight.
It’s a fitting backdrop to the 10th Anniversary of Diplomatic Immunity. The idea itself is nothing new. The reappropriation of urban culture existed well before Dipset and will continue to live on as long as poor black folks continue to flood the streets with that proverbial “work.” So, don’t get the game twisted. When I talk about this album, this supergroup, I am so damn serious. This isn’t a fashion statement; some ironic homage provided courtesy of modern hipster sensibilities. For us, Dipset was a blueprint. Diplomatic Immunity was the soundtrack to everything we wanted to be — for better or for worse.
In rap, content matters. Presented with vivid detail is a narrative constructed by modest beginnings and a climax drenched in decadence. Diplomatic Immunity, in all of its lyrical shortcomings and successes, is a tale of the kids that made it out of Harlem, but never really left. When Cam spits…
“Chill while I’m chasing millions / I’m a baller that would merk you like Jason Williams”
“I’m a surpass crack, move on to Nasdaq / But still my connects move anthrax on Amtrak”
…he presents the contradiction that belies this entire project. “Making it” is not a place located on the Upper East Side. “Making it” is a value quantified by dollars. The products of Reagan’s America manage to embrace the capitalistic pursuits embodying the generation, whilst hating the establishment that perpetuated its existent in the first place. They do all of this through a vision sponsored by Pyrex®.
The War on Drugs lost.
Sonically, the analysis is a bit hazier. Helmed largely by the Jamaican-born Heatmakerz duo, Diplomatic Immunity left me asking the same question over and over again:
Do I like this beat or do I just like the sample?
What I never questioned was the result. The straight-forward styling of the Heatmakerz made for several strong (and easily identifiable) incidents of crate-digging victories. I think some may take issue with the Heatmakerz receiving credit for “Let’s Go,” but that doesn’t make the Marvin Gaye-sampled record any less endearing. And while many may point to the well-orchestrated Just Blaze record (made even more famous by internet legend, Eli Porter) as the album’s gem, I would argue that “My Love” is the defining moment for this album compositionally. A record connecting a well-chopped excerpt from The Moments and a frenzied verse from Philly Freezer is simply too big to fail.
More than anything else, however, Diplomatic Immunity was a very specific moment in time. It’s an allure wrapped up in bright memories. Perhaps the album isn’t as good as previously mentioned. Perhaps this is another incident of historical revisionism. Nostalgia often gets the best of us, but I do believe there is some merit in acknowledging this particular project. In all of its violence, drug-trafficking, misogynistic splendor, Diplomatic Immunity was a charming adventure through the realities of urban sensibilities in the early 2000s. This is just what it was. I’m not apologizing for it; I’m just putting it into context. So, if you’re looking for a quick fix of gloriously superficial Hip-Hop, get a hit of that Diplomatic Immunity. Ten years later, it still knocks.