On March 25, 2003, Cam’ron and his Diplomats released their Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam debut double album, Diplomatic Immunity, still one of my favorite albums from my college days. One year after the original Diplomats mixtape created enough of a buzz for Dame Dash to bring Cam and the crew on at Roc-A-Fella, their first major label album was a continuation of that loose, nothing-to-lose feeling the Dips had before signing their deal.
The production on this album was strong largely because of the ridiculously well-chopped samples the Heatmakerz provided, as well as standout tracks from Just Blaze, Charlamagne, and D.R. Period. 19 of the 24 songs on the album featured samples, many of the sped-up variety that was so popular during that era and Cam’ron, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones shined (for them, anyway) over those beats.
A lot of the memorable cuts from Diplomatic Immunity feature Juelz Santana, who was once upon a time one of rap’s highly touted young guns. “Who am I” is memorable for deep introspection on a life that was still searching for meaning even as an up-and-coming rapper.
Cam was more laid back on this album hot off the heels of Come Home With Me (though he did get the best beats in “I really mean it” and “Purple Haze”), preferring to let Juelz, Jimmy, Un Casa and Hell Rell run things on Diplomatic Immunity. Rell had a couple of freestyles and two recorded songs (“This is what I do” and a verse on “Built this city”), a wise guy who meant business on everything he spit, including tap-dancing on his work like the late great Gregory Hines.
One thing that doesn’t hold up well is Jimmy’s bars. I remember I wrote a review for this album when it was new in college and I called him one of the most underrated lyricists in the game. Clearly I’ve learned my lesson since then. He still had some good moments (“Beautiful Noise” and “I’m Ready”), but clearly I was impressed that he could actually put words together back then.
Overall, Diplomatic Immunity stands out for its time as the one album that really made noise in rap in 2003 until Jay-Z dropped The Black Album near the end of that year. Parts of it age well, others don’t, but if you ever want to relive what you were doing in the spring and summer of 2003, Diplomatic Immunity goes a long way to refreshing your memory.