Follow countrymen, lend me your ear. Place the turmoil of the current world far back into the depths of your mind. In their place, extract the bygone memories of yesteryear. A time when all was right in the world. When people loved one another and treated each other with respect. When there was diplomacy.
I, of course, am talking about the stellar double disk debut Diplomatic Immunity which launched one of the best periods of modern history. Forged by the fires of New York City, the While AJ will speak on this magnificent album on a grander scale, I’m here to focus on one individual unit. If The Diplomats are our forefathers, one unsung member was its Francis Scott Key.
One man dared to dream the impossible. He simply wanted to have a verse on the star-studded Roc-a-Fella debut. Cam was about to turn the album in but nonetheless, he persisted. He promised piff and piff he delivered. This man was none other than A House. Two-Gun Un. Un Kasa. Not only did he get a verse on the Diplomats album, his classic freestyle would serve as the intro.
Where were you when you first hear “My speakers do the wop, rims do the macarena”? Was your life changed forever just like mine?
And long before Young Dro of Bankhead, Un Kasa introduced car colors unheard of:
A Porsche the color of hot banana
Vanilla coke seats
A truck that looks like the city of Tonka
And last, I’ll never forget Un Kasa saying he’s living in an equinox. What does that mean? The gym? The Chevy? The time of the year when days and nights are equal length? I don’t know but it doesn’t matter.
This frestyle was a classic beginning to a classic album. Let’s be glad Cam let Un Kasa deliver his piff before this album was sent to Roc A Fella HQ. So before I pass it off to AJ, I would just like to say to take a few moments to reflect on the classic Un Kasa freestyle. Don’t forget one of the original heroes of Dipset.
At the top of the year, I remember telling Ronnie there were a lot of my favorite albums turning 15 this year and at the time, it seemed like sheer happenstance, but I’ve realized why: because that was when I started having a life. 2003 was a big year for me in a lot of ways. I got my first job, my brother got his driver’s license and a car and I started being less awkward. The start of 2003, I was a Sophomore in High School, 15 years old and just really forming the foundation of my personality in many ways. I was always smart and enjoyed music, but in many ways, I was lost and just kind of figuring things out before 2003. I remember when my brother got his first car, it was our mom’s 1993 Honda Accord. We both worked at McDonald’s making slightly above minimum wage at the time ($5.15 an hour) but between that job and that car, we had all the necessary ingredients to take advantage of the freedom our mother granted us as teenagers and Diplomatic Immunity was the soundtrack to that freedom.
As much as 50 Cent’s debut album rocked the world of hip-hop, it felt like this larger than life thing that my 15-year-old brain couldn’t touch or relate to. Sure, Diplomatic Immunity largely had the same themes, but there was something tangible about the sound of that music. The Heatmakerz’ sound along with the braggadocio from Cam’ron, Juelz, Jim Jones and Zeke was something me and my circle of friends gravitated to. We’d spend our weekend, early morning shift at McDonald’s rapping lyrics from every song on the album to pass the time, then throw the album in as soon as we got off work. Then, we’d go home, get dressed, go to the mall, and play the album the entire way there and back.
More than anything, The Diplomats were a movement. They weren’t the most lyrical and their music didn’t always have the best content, but we listened to it anyway. We emulated their style and even adopted some of their slang and mannerisms. Before Cam at the end of the Dipset Anthem video, it was unheard of for men to wear pink, but after that video debuted, almost everyone in school had a pink outfit and wore it proudly. Long before Instagram was ever a thing, we used to frequent this teen club about 30 minutes from where I grew up called IG. On Saturdays, IG was the place to be if you were in high school. We were there, every Saturday, and when Dipset Anthem would come on, the whole club would be doing this
Not only would everyone be doing that lean, in unison, we were all dressed like that. Tall tees, baggy jeans, durags, under headbands or bandanas, under fitted caps, all color coordinated. I know most of our reader base is in the south, but in Ohio, Dipset had things on lock and Cam’s penchant for shouting out “Dayton, Youngstown, Cleveland, Cincinnati” certainly didn’t hurt. In many ways, The Diplomats’ run was the beginning of the end for New York dominance in Hip-hop. With them, the focus wasn’t on the bars or who had the best verse, it was a feeling and that feeling was what mattered. The Diplomats also embraced a lot of southern artists and sounds when that was largely unheard of for New York rappers to do on a regular basis.
Sure, if you weren’t there for the movement or didn’t grow up in an area where they had sway, this probably all seems like hyperbole, but as someone who was there and was under that sway, it’s something I’m glad I got to witness. It’s sad that The Dips couldn’t keep the movement going but it’s not likely they ever could’ve. Something that big is best appreciated in the moment. Too long or too short, and you miss that sweet spot, that window of “You had to be there”. At 30, I look back and laugh at how we dressed or some of the lyrics we used to repeat ad nauseam, but I’m glad I was there. I can still rap almost every song off that album to this day. I can still throw the album on during the rare occasions me and my childhood friends are all together and we can all laugh and reminisce about those days. And for us, that’s a classic by definition.