Juelz Santana                                                                            By Usman Sajjad

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From the streets of Harlem to flying high in the charts, Juelz Santana is representing the DipSet to the fullest. The Situation sat down with hip hop's fastest rising star to talk about his album, commercial hip hop, the DipSet and Cam'ron.

Juelz SantanaNowadays in hip hop, the trend among major artists has been known and seen for many years. That artist comes up on the streets, rises on the mixtape scene to eventually pocket a record deal. With street credibility and commercial hype, they then release a successful album selling millions. The next move in their well thought out ‘plan of attack’, as it were, is to put their crew or “homies” on the map, via releasing a debut crew album, or by pushing an individual member forward. We’ve seen it with G-Unit, through their group release and successful solo albums; it’s been the case with Jadakiss and the LOX; it also worked for Eminem and his D12 cohorts, and let’s not forget Cam’ron and his Harlem crew, The Diplomats.

Occasionally, there is the natural star in the crew, who progresses to make it on his own, much like West Coast rapper The Game breaking away from G-Unit upon the success of his triple platinum album, ‘The Documentary’. However, for years Juelz Santana has been that star in the DipSet crew, the group Cam’ron formed and led together with partner, Jim Jones. Santana’s exposure to the mainstream hip hop audience came on his standout verses on Cam’s smash singles, ‘Oh Boy’, and the club friendly ‘Hey Ma’.

Now signed to Def Jam, Juelz has finally released his long awaited sophomore album, ‘What The Game’s Been Missing’, following the success of the first single, ‘The Whistle Song (There it Go)’. “I really worked hard on this album,” told the Harlem youngster. “When everyone goes to get the album, they going to see this dude put a lot of hard work into it. It’s a masterpiece man, I ain’t even gonna front. It’s a great album.”

His signing to Def Jam has left the DipSet soldier in a very awkward predicament, as ‘Killa’ Cam’s recent diss record was aimed directly at Def Jam CEO, Jay-Z, a beef which has been brewing from years of accumulated tension and alleged subliminal jabs from the two parties. Yet, regardless, Juelz still remains proud of the DipSet movement, in its surprisingly large predominance in the current hip hop market. “We definitely managed to stay consistent with the music, you know, but it’s still hard at the same time,” he tells.

With countless mixtapes released on the underground scene, almost creating an avenue for the Diplomat crew in the mixtape game, there has not been a huge amount of commercial success for the former Cam’ron “protégée”. Like acts such as Twista, Memphis Bleek, and Three Six Mafia, commercial success did not knock on Santana’s doors until he had a big chart hit under his belt. Prior to his current status, it was a case of average sales and average earnings, but Juelz is the first to admit that he was never an instant household name like 50 Cent or Eminem, for example. “We not superstars when it comes to record sales, but now my sales been great. We just coming up into that world, because before we was just known on an underground level, but now we starting to be real big,” says Santana. “It’s a real beautiful thing. We gonna continue to be more consistent, because there is no one out there on a level like DipSet.”

Even though Juelz has had his name spoken of in the streets of New York, and his buzz may be bubbling in areas such as Harlem, that same buzz over the years was never as strong as Cam’ron’s hype, like in areas such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Chicago - areas outside of New York which tended to associate the word ‘DipSet’ with Cam’ron’s homies. A ‘DipSet’ release to many, would simply be considered a prequel to Cam’ron release to build up hype for his next major album. However through the years, there has not only been a rise through the ranks of DipSet soldiers Juelz, Freezy Zeeky, and Hell Rell, but a huge surge in the popularity and recognition of Cam’ron’s cohort, Jim Jones, who is now holding down an executive position at Warner Records, as well as working several other business deals, including liquor and movies.

Speaking on the commercial hip hop, Juelz made clear: “We never rushed to go commercial, it is what it is. Once they start accepting us, it’s cool, but we ain’t gonna cater to them.” Ironically, with the commercial success of the track, ‘The Whistle Song’, receiving major airplay on both sides of the pond, from Hot 97 in New York, to BBC Radio 1Xtra in London, the album does not fit into what the song displays. “The album, it’s all me. It’s just the balance, like when we did ‘Oh Boy’ and ‘Hey Ma’ for [Cam’ron’s] ‘Come Home With Me’ album; that wasn’t a commercial album,” tells Juelz. “Like, people on a commercial level started to take on it, and it got us over that hump, but it was still big for us.”

So what is next for the Harlem young boy? Fast moving out of the shadow of his “older brother” as he likes to refer to Cam’ron, Juelz is finding his own feet in the industry, with appearances of hit songs like Chris Brown’s smash, ‘Run It’, and what a way to solidify a unique persona than to establish a slogan. Like Master P with his “Uggh!” ad lib, and Jeezy with his lengthy “Yeah!” ad libs, Juelz has got his “Ai Ai” even encrusted on a large gold chain that hangs from the neck of the skinny-looking Harlem native. “I had to solidify it, and let people know it’s mine,” he says of his slogan. “You know, I don’t want anyone to jack it, got a lot of money on it!”

His album ‘What The Game’s Been Missing’ featuring appearances by Sizzla, Young Jeezy, Lil’ Wayne, and Cam’ron, is out now on Def Jam Records. For more information on Juelz Santana, visit his official website http://www6.defjam.com/site/artist_home.php?artist_id=518

This interview was in collaboration with Boston’s very own DJ Pup Dawg. For more information, please visit http://www.djpupdawg.com.

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