It seems like an entire era has passed since we first laid our eardrums on the uptown resonance of LaRon James. Better known as Juelz Santana to his loyal Dipset followers, the Harlem-bred MC has been somewhat of a child star, beginning his career in a rap duo named Draft Pick in the late nineties at the age of 15. After catching the attention of another Harlem heavyweight by the name of Cameron Giles, Santana made his mark on Cam’Ron’s 2000 release, “Sports, Drugs and Entertainment” (S.D.E.). Since then, it has been nothing but full throttle hustle for the 25-year-old. After scoring a Grammy nomination for his collaboration with Cam on the 2002 smash hit, “Oh Boy,” Santana was brought into the fold of The Diplomats–a New York City hip-hop movement founded by Cam’Ron and two of his longtime friends, Jim Jones and Freaky Zekey.
Making his mark in a crew that brought numerous trends (pink-hued clothing) and phrases into the hip-hop lexicon (no homo), these days bring a new direction in the career of Juelz Santana. The MC and new-found record executive is readying the release of his third studio album, “Born to Lose, Built to Win,” on Def Jam Records. This will be the first release for Santana after inking a 50/50 venture with the label after his former mentor Cam’Ron sold his contract to Def Jam for $2 Million. But through all of the tumult that has surrounded the dissolve of The Diplomats and the relationship between its members, Santana maintains a positive outlook and even says that the Dipset movement is still alive and well.
And that should be good news to the movement’s truest fans, as they are holding on to the hopes of hearing one last album from the hip-hop collective. But until that day comes, Juelz Santana’s main focus is pushing his new label, Skull Gang Records, toward the forefront of the future of hip-hop. The new single from his album, “Back to the Crib”–which features Chris Brown–has been heating up radio as the album gets its finishing touches for a 2010 release. As droves of people will be ringing in the New Year staring intently at the Time Square crystal ball or partying the night away, Santana just might be pulling an all-nighter in the studio–gearing up for another win.