(Photos) Throwback Thursday: How Dip Set & Saving My Lunch Money Brought Me To A Career In Music

LIT_Marisa Mendez x Dip Set TBT 1

When people say things like, “Dip Set changed my life” or, “I was the biggest Dip Set fan ever,” (yes, people say those things…LOL) I don’t even bother to engage in a debate with them because winning would be too effortless. Dip Set REALLY changed my life. Because of my love (or slight obsession, either one) for them in high school, I chose the career path I embarked on, I met people who put me in the right place to advance in said career and I learned early on how to move around in the music business. Suffice to say, what Dip Set did for me trumps you hands down. Unless you’re like, Freekey Zekey. He probably has a better story than me. Anyway, here’s the 411:

The spring of my 9th grade year (2002) was when Cam’Ron put out the video to “Oh Boy,” and me being your average 14/15-year-old, I totally got all, “Zomg who’s that Juelz Santana guy?! He’s so cute!”

Being a child of the internet era, I immediately looked Juelz up online, and found some Yahoo fan boards to join and talk about him all day. I bought Cam’s Come Home With Me CD when it came out that summer, and to this day it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. Just before going back to school that fall to begin my 10th grade year, my best friend Kiana took me shopping with her on 125th Street in Harlem. It was my first time in Harlem and I was excited, considering I was all “in the know” via Killa’s CD. It was there on that lovely August day in 2002 that I discovered what a mixtape was, thanks to the bootleg man pushing Dip Set Vol. 2 outside of Jimmy Jazz. And just like that, nothing was the same. LOL!

LIT_Dip Set Vol 2

By the spring of 2003, Juelz’s mother, Ms. Debbie, had launched both a website and a store for her pride and joy, Juelz.com and Santana’s Town, respectively. Much like my fellow Juelz fans around the world, I signed up immediately to use the message boards (my username was “MaRi”) and forged friendships with people I’m still tight with to this day – specifically my best friend Carol, my homegirl Tot over at The Source and Karen Civil. I wasn’t able to make it to the store opening in February (I was SO bummed!) but on March 29, 2003, I showed up at Santana’s Town on 151st and Amsterdam bright and early and I finally met my beloved Juelz Santana! (This was 4 days after the release of Diplomatic Immunity - in which I had Googled how to take a train to Harlem, cut school, used my lunch money from my mom and went all the way to FYE on 125th St. to buy the album and get it signed by Cam’Ron, Juelz, Jim and Zeke…but they never made it in because of the riot the crowd caused. Devastated was an understatement!)

Now that I was a pro at getting to Harlem (LOL,) I would save the $5 my mom gave me for lunch every morning during the week, and every Saturday, I would “go to the mall” (aka take my 15-year-old self in a cab to Metropark and then on NJ Transit into Penn Station and then on the A train to 145th St.) to hang at the store with Juelz’ mom and some of his boys from the block and some of the girls from the site and every once in a blue moon, Juelz himself. I’m pretty sure we all annoyed the crap out of Juelz and his friends, but they were always so nice to us and we always felt extremely cool hanging out with them. During the course of the 6 or 7 months that I was going consistently in 2003, I met producers, DJs, singers, writers, rappers, engineers… They’d all go meet up at Santana’s Town (aka “The Bird’s Nest”) and chop it up amongst each other about the music business, marketing plans and everything in between. Being 15/16 and just hearing these convos amongst such important people, I soaked up EVERYTHING. Those gems are the reason I chose to double-major in marketing and management in college.

As we got a little older, we eventually were invited to video shoots and parties, and so until around spring of 2006, Dip Set was all I cared about. At that point I had to start focusing on college and all that less-fun stuff, but a few years later, Karen would be the reason I got an internship at Hot 97, and as they say, “the rest is history.”

So, thank you Dip Set for being awesome. Thank you Juelz for never being mean to the annoying teenaged girls that would hang around your block, LOL. Thank you Ms. Debbie for starting Juelz.com, opening a store, taking us all in and treating us like daughters, and most importantly, thank you to Killa Cam for starting the movement! DIP SET ALL DAY, EVERY DAY B!


In extremely related news, Cam just shot a video with Hell Rell and Jim Jones off his 1st Of The Month Vol. 2 EP and it’s everything!

Marisa Mendez

Marisa is a media personality, while also working on the digital side of things for some of hip-hop's biggest names. She has done work with French Montana, Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T and many more.

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