Juelz Santana was born in Harlem, New York and began rapping as a young teen in the rap duo Draft Pick. He would go on to join The Diplomats collective after being discovered by Cam’ron, who first introduced the rapper through songs like 2000’s “Double Up” and 2002’s “Hey Ma.” In 2003, Santana released his debut album From Me to U via Def Jam Recordings and Diplomat Records, which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 charts. The project expanded on the name that had been bubbling years prior through unofficial mixtapes with songs like “Dipset” and “My Problem (Jealousy).”
In 2005, Juelz Santana released his sophomore effort What the Game’s Been Missing!, yielding sure-fire tracks like “Rumble Young Man Rumble,” “There It Go,” and the Lil Wayne and Jeezy-assisted cut “Make It Work For You.” This would be Santana’s final album and full-length project until 2013’s God Will’n. His third studio album was slated to release just years after its predecessor but despite Juelz releasing pre-release singles in anticipation of the project, it never surfaced. In the meantime, he collaborated with Cam’ron and Jim Jones following the reunion of The Diplomats in 2010, prompting a number of loose singles and the group’s third album, Diplomatic Ties. The rapper also appeared on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” alongside his wife and former video vixen Kimbella Vandehee.
As of February 2022, Juelz Santana is officially a free man after two years behind bars, plus probation, due to his 2018 firearm conviction. The musician has since kept a relatively low profile, performing during 2021’s Dipset vs. The Lox Verzuz battle and being featured on Jim Jones’ “We Set The Trends” remix alongside Migos and Lil Wayne back in April.
Following his “Drink Champs” appearance, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from Juelz Santana’s interview. Check them out below.
1. On not releasing music since his prison release
Juelz Santana’s last release as a lead artist was 2020’s #FREESANTANA, which was comprised of songs that were created prior to his incarceration in 2018. He recently appeared on Jim Jones’ “We Set The Trends” remix, which the rapper cites as a catalyst for him putting out his own solo material. As Juelz explains, being on probation felt very much like still being incarcerated, as there were many restrictions on where he could go or who he could be around. “Being a perfectionist and always waiting for the perfect time — every time I’m getting the energy to go hard, I always get a hurdle that gets in my way and discourages me,” he shares. “Right now, it’s about me moving forward and putting out the music.”
2. On rumors his house went through foreclosure while he was incarcerated
In 2018, Juelz Santana was sentenced to 27 months in prison for trying to take a loaded gun onto a flight leaving Newark Airport. As he tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN later in the interview, TSA suspected the rapper had a firearm in his bag during the security checkpoint, which he did not find out about until after he left the airport and returned home. Santana turned himself in two days later, serving 19 months in prison and the remainder on supervised probation. “I did 27 months in jail, I’m home in a Maybach. Couple niggas said they sent shit to my books, but ain’t nobody reach out to my family or ask if my bills was being paid. I did that!”
Juelz later expands on rumors of his home facing foreclosure while he was in prison. “First of all, my crib wasn’t getting foreclosed… I was paying the dude, he wasn’t paying his mortgage, the house went up for foreclosure. I wounded up getting the beautiful end of the stick because now I’m in this crib, well my wife is in this crib ‘cause I’m locked up for six to seven months, not paying no rent ‘cause now I got proof that I was paying you and you wasn’t paying. Now the court is like you’re the problem, not Juelz,” he explained.
3. On “In My Life” and his relationship with Cam’ron over the years
While serving his sentence, Santana released his 2020 mixtape #FREESANTANA, which contained features from Dave East, Jim Jones and Lil Wayne, among others. One of the songs off of the project, “In My Life,” was speculated by fans to be a subliminal shot at Cam’ron. Though he doesn’t admit to the record being aimed at his fellow group member, Juelz shares that he and Cam’ron have had issues in the past as most groups do, comparing it to Capone-N-Noreaga’s relationship.
“I didn’t make that in jail, I made it prior. Me and Killa are brothers, fuck you mean ‘Have we ever had problems?’ You and Capone ever had problems?” Juelz asks N.O.R.E. He adds, “Right now, me and Killa are in a great space but we’re brothers, we’re always going to have things. The best thing about our relationship is we’ve always managed to sort it out and get to a better place.”
4. On The LOX being a better group than The Diplomats
Last year, Dipset and The LOX went toe-to-toe for their highly anticipated Verzuz showdown in New York City. As Jim Jones previously stated in an interview with Angie Martinez, he offered Cam’ron his earnings from the event and frankly, it was the first time the musicians performed together in quite some time. In regards to the Verzuz battle, Juelz shares that The LOX is a better group than The Diplomats … not because they’re more talented, but because they emerged onto the music scene as a group, whereas the latter is a collective comprised of individuals with their own signature styles.
“My take on that night is [The LOX] are a better group than us because they are a group. [The Diplomats] is not a group. We are individual artists that came together as a collective to form what we formed, which is called Dipset,” he shares. “They came in this game as LOX, they perform as a group. Me and Cam have great records together, but we don’t have those back-to-back records like Styles P and Jadakiss.”
5. On being Chris Brown’s first-ever feature on 2005’s “Run It!”
Chris Brown’s debut single “Run It!” set the world ablaze upon its initial release, peaking at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and securing three-times RIAA-certified Platinum status several years later. The song, which featured Juelz Santana, was released when Brown was 16, making the record even more impressive during its era. “Run It!” received a series of iterations, including a remix featuring Jermaine Dupri and Bow Wow as well as a version of the song without Santana’s verse. “I ain’t saying I saved the boy, the boy has natural, God-given talents. The stars were aligning and I definitely added that spice, that sauce, that drip, that swag to that ‘Run It!’ record and made it the record that you know it to be now. But Chris is a legend and I could never take nothing away from him.”
6. On his “Dipset Anthem” verse and Cam’ron being offered the VP position at Roc-A-Fella
In The Diplomat’s 2003 song “Dipset Anthem,” Juelz raps, “One more for Shyne locked inside, yeah/Two more for Cam, for taking over the Roc.” The line arrives years after Dame Dash signed Cam’ron to Roc-A-Fella and in 2002, Jim Jones announced Cam’ron as the vice president of the label, which subsequently sparked a feud between Cam and JAY-Z. Though Cam turned down Dame’s offer, it was seemingly the beginning of the end of the record label. It was sold to Island Def Jam, and Hov soon became CEO and president of Def Jam Recordings.
Juelz shares, “I just took that as a dope line. I didn’t mean to stir up controversy like that but in a sense, I did look at it as a true line. We came over there and we handled business. Cam ran that shit like a real company, a real business, a real boot camp damn near. We went over there and it was a lot of things going on and basically, people weren’t taking advantage of the situation that they were in. So Cam made sure that we did and we made sure that we did being over there.”
7. On joining the cast of VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop”
Juelz Santana joined “Love & Hip Hop” as supporting cast for season seven and later as a main cast member alongside his now-wife Kimbella. The show documented the rapper’s infidelity issues, which he touched on previously in the interview, in addition to his opiate addiction and return to the music industry. When asked what made him want to join the cast, Juelz simply explains that it’s “good money.” He tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, “I did it for a couple of reasons. My wife for one, I’m always going to support her. Shout out to my wife, I haven’t cheated in at least over five years. Of course, I was who I was when we first got together, but I had to get to a point where I got everything out of my system.”
8. On Paul Wall introducing him to lean and how lean affected his music
Later in the interview, Juelz Santana opens up about his lean addiction, which came to an end many years ago. It began during the late 2010s after Houston rapper Paul Wall introduced him to cough syrup. According to Cam’ron, this would be the reason behind him and Juelz falling out in 2009. Santana states that much like opioids and marijuana, cough syrup had a major impact on the music he was creating at the time. He also delves into how working on music with Lil Wayne, who similarly shared a lean problem, was indirectly another reason that he didn’t give up on it as soon as he could. “I was drinking lean and did I have an addiction to lean? For sure. I was addicted to the point where I was drinking it every day and if I would’ve stopped, I would’ve gotten sick because that’s what happens with the opiates and shit.”
“Paul Wall, he just said in an interview that Dipset embraced him a lot and we did. He kind of introduced me to it a little bit, just on some taste it … He put me on and you know, me and Wayne being close and recording that album at the time didn’t help. We were just fully not feeling our face all around the board. You see the music we created was fucking timeless. Lean ain’t have nothing to do with it. All of that was created when I was drinking the most lean I drank in my life.”
9. On Dame Dash and JAY-Z going their separate ways
JAY-Z and Dame Dash’s decades-long feud began when Roc-A-Fella was purchased by Def Jam in 2004, with JAY-Z eventually becoming CEO and President of the label. As N.O.R.E. points out, Juelz was present when internal tension began to brew as well as when Roc-A-Fella officially fell apart. “It was a lot of tension coming in from different angles. Of course, I think it was money involved, it was egos involved. It was at a time where just as much as we knew, it was just as much as we didn’t know.”
Juelz explains, “The Roc-A-Fella shit, you seen what happened with them. It was almost like a pick a side thing. JAY and Dame split, whatever that thing was, I don’t know. JAY and Dame split down the middle and that led to pick a side. Dipset was always on Dame’s side.”