Looking from the outside its easy to see why a lot of people feel like Juelz Santana is living the good life and has been since he jumped out onto the rap scene with his fellow Diplomats. What people dont see however is how hard it really is to be a young rapper on the brink of superstardom. Back when Santanas sophomore album, What The Games Been Missing, was pumping out hit after hit and his face was plastered on MTV and BET countdowns it seemed as if the sky was the limit for the young Harlem bred spitter. What followed that series of highs were some disappointing and confusing lows for not only Juelz, but the Diplomat crew that he repped faithfully.
Its been about three years since fans heard a studio album from Santana and in that period hes gone through changes that no one expected. Hes seen a nasty in house feud between Camron and Jim Jones boil over into the public eye, followed soon by the Diplomats disbandment and he parted ways with Camron himself due in part to contractual issues. It hasnt been all bad during his time away from the game however as Santana has used his off time to start his own label and build up the excitement for his latest offering, Born To Lose Built To Win.
AllHipHop.com: So what have you been doing with yourself since your last studio album was released?
Juelz: Im still in the studio grinding; a lot of things dont change. Its still Dipset for life, but me and Cam arent exactly the way things should be due to different reasons. Definitely not nothing malice, I didnt try to prevent or get right. If we can get back together and make it right its cool, its whatever, but I been grinding and putting the Skull Gang movement together, but like I tell people the Skull Gang is never ever like a substitute. Its Dipset all day, thats in my blood, thats in my veins I am that. The Skull Gang movement is just like the mob. I grew up into an entity myself just like when Cam was under Mase. Everybodys got to grow into an entity themselves and just like Cam had Diplomats and Mase had Harlem World, now its time for me to extend my arm out so these are just a few of the people that I extended my arm out to that I felt were talented and had a lot of love for. We put out the Skull Gang Volume One and got a great response.
AllHipHop.com: Outside of the group aspect, what else have you been doing?
Juelz: In the meantime the in between time me and Weezy had did the I Cant Feel My Face s**t and all that. A lot of s**t got leaked out and we was supposed to do the album, but that never happened due to a lot of politics and bulls**t, but like I tell people we got a whole bunch of records still recorded we actually just did another record recently that Im probably going to use for album thats just retarded. Im just gearing up Im trying to stay relevant by throwing verses out there and throwing things out there, but I definitely was just gearing up for the master plan and the next time I was going to drop an album which I am now, Born to Lose Built to Win. I was just prepping and soaking everything up figuring things out so my next move is my best move. The Back To The Crib record thats going to be on my album, me and Chris Brown thats just stupid. Its produced by Polo the Don. I reached out to my n***a Chris because I just felt like it was time for us to make that magic again. We had a big success with the “Run It” record when he reached out to me when he first came in the game, so you know I had a record that I definitely heard him on so I said f**k all the bulls**t that other n***as may think about whatevers going on that aint got nothing to do with us and I think hes the perfect one for the record. Hes more than talented and the little n***a has swag. I f**k with the young boy so I reached out and made it happen. Im just gearing up Im probably in second gear on these n***as right now and I might even still be switching from first to second; I aint even get near fifth yet. I got a great relationship with Def Jam; theyre supporting the project right now. I still feel like labels, I wouldnt even say just Def Jam, all the labels they forgetting how this shifts and this works. You got to go back to them old days when you sacrifice what you got for what you believe in, but despite all that Im here. Im here, they love me, and they miss me out there. Everybody wants to know when the Reagan Era is coming out, the mixtape, when the Born To Lose is. Im here, Im right here and they aint going to be able to get rid of me. Theyre going to have too much of me I should say, no h###.
AllHipHop.com: What was it like not being album to put out an album for such an extended time period?
Juelz: It wasnt that I couldnt put music out. I couldnt put studio music out for about two years almost three years out of it. Then the last year I was putting music out I was still doing the underground mixtapes so thats why I even managed to stay relevant to this day I always spit on verses. Me and Weezy dropped I Cant Feel My Face; I was always doing a lot of different s**t in the mean time between time, the only thing I didnt do was drop an album or one of my solo mixtapes, but besides that I was still hitting them and letting people know Juelz Santana is always that n***a whenever I come out Im coming out. That just kept that craze for Juelz Santana up until now and Im releasing more music, things are starting to pan out the way I need them to pan out. Im all about the feeling man, the feelings got to be right ya dig.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you feel you needed that distance from Camron?
Julez: I mean it wasnt about distancing myself from Cam. The business wasnt weighing out if you put it on a scale you know what I mean. Thats why I never disrespect Cam or even say nothing bad because I respect the fact that he gave me the opportunity to even be here and Im from Harlem, Im a hustler so I aint never going to look back. Im in the middle of the ocean its either drown or get to the other f**king side. I aint swimming backwards, I aint doing that. At the end of the day I put in a lot of work into that Diplomat s**t and like I said I still rep the bird to this day and its never like an I turned my back on it thing, its just the business was something that needed to get fixed and it just seemed that for some reason the communication wasnt there so the business didnt get fixed and it just left a sour taste especially with the way I looked at him. I looked at Cam like a brother, so its like to where somebody is doing something that you dont expect.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you choose to continue working with Def Jam instead of exploring other options?
Juelz: At the time Def Jam still had the rights to my contract. I was signed to Def Jam through Cam, so once he was out the picture it was really just about Def Jam wasnt trying to let me go nowhere. They had all the rights so it was really just about me and his business; it wasnt about my business with Def Jam because its great. At the end of the day as long as theyre doing what theyre supposed to be doing my business with them is cool and I dont have the same type of relationship I had with cam. I wasnt with Def Jam everyday damn near, at my life one point. We wasnt in the studio we dont make the music at Def Jam its more of a business, just as much as its a family. Its a business family ya dig. Me and Cam we got to the point where you know it was like we was brothers. S### we still are brothers aint nothing going to affect that, but just as far as the business side I just couldnt sit there and be stupid and act like I was getting the best end of the stick or the fairest end of the stick, no h###.
AllHipHop.com: Do you ever think at some point in the future you guys will be able to patch it up and make music again?
Juelz: Whatever happens happens. I dont have no super vendetta, I dont have no nothing. I just wanted to get my situation straight and now my situation is straight so if n***as want to come back to the table and put something together I definitely feel like the fans deserve it. I mean I definitely dont think we even got as much out of the Dipset when it comes to record sales. Like, we looked a lot bigger than we actually were, not because of the way we carried ourselves, n***as knew what it was, but at the end of the day there was a lot more that we were getting into and the boat kind of turned left, but I still let n***as know its Dipset for life.
AllHipHop.com: What made you want to start your own label (Skull Gang)?
Juelz: I was always going to do that, thats part of growing in the business and thats what Cam made us to do. I was never going to be the boss of Dipset, but I never wanted to be. If I sold 20 million records Cam was still going to be the boss and I always respected that, I respect my position. I always tell n***as this is like the mob. Even if me and Cam were still ace boon coon I would still be Dipset and I would still have Skull Gang because it is about growing. AllHipHop.com: Why did you choose the title Born To Lose Built To Win?
Juelz: its just a movement, its the energy. You feel that when I say it; born to lose built to win every n***a feels that. You cant walk you cant talk you cant do nothing when youre born you know what Im saying, thats the lose part because you lost already when you came into the world. You got to be taught everything and if your not taught it or learn it you wont be able to even function in this world and thats how you build up to a winner the man you become. You got to be built to be a winner man. It energy, its just the feeling. When youre making a classic album you got to have the right everything. This s**t is going to be epic ya dig what Im saying I got nothing to lose money to get and something to prove.
AllHipHop.com: Are the fans ever going to get to hear the collabo album with yourself and Lil Wayne?
Juelz: We got about 16 records still recorded that havent been leaked theres a lot of politics like if you think about it. Theres a lot of politics and things that come when dealing with big artists such as me and Wayne, but worse case scenario well definitely just put that out on a mixtape or that type of level.