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7 September, 2004@12:00 am

       Certain rap artists inspire equal amounts of hate and support with each new record dropped and freestyle recorded. One such act is the Diplomats, the Harlem-based crew consisting of front men Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, and Jim Jones. While many throw negative comments towards Dipset’s similarly sounding beats and simplistic wordplay, others rush street corners for their latest mixtapes, fiending for the crew’s “audio cooked crack” (For explanation, see Juelz Santana’s latest mixtape). No matter what the public has to say, though, Cam’ron and his boys really don’t care, and this is clearly evident throughout Jim Jones’ solo debut, On My Way To Church. 

       In a perfect hip-hop world, a solo Jim Jones album would be unnecessary, but in these days and times, it is inevitable. Having rode shotgun with Cam since the Confessions of Fire days, Jones is a rapper who admits to penning his first raps a mere two years ago. This point is one that can’t be avoided on On My Way To Church, a collection of hit-or-miss production occasionally heightened by entertaining commentary.

     “We set them precedents, to get them presidents/ Over the ones that’s dead, we put guns to your head,” warns Jim Jones on “Only One Way Up,” a threat that mirrors the creative levels at work here. No ground is broken, and no chances are really taken as Jones covers the expected topics of drug dealing, gunplay, and the frequent sex episodes. When he strays away from these generic issues, however, Jones proves to be quite able. On “Lonely Daze/Memory Lane,” he is able shine with honest narratives, while on “Talking To The World” he weaves a positive message within his gritty street fare. Moments like these are too few and far between, though, as the majority of On My Way To Church plods along with lackluster offerings. The breezy vibe of “Spanish Fly” is wasted with painfully weak verses, and the overly violent “Shotgun Fire” comes off more yawn-worthy than intimidating. 

    Jim Jones isn’t the most lyrically gifted rhyme-spitter, making the brightest moments heard on On My Way To Church appear when he invites his friends to bless pounding instrumentals. “End Of The Road” sports a damaging blend of organ keys and sprinkled vocal samples courtesy of Heatmakerz, ignited by guests T.I. and Bun.B. Jones sounds most comfortable alongside his Diplomat brethren, though, as Jones, Cam’ron and Juelz run triz over three separate tracks. Thunderous electric guitars power the trio on the aforementioned “Only One Way Up,” an off-kilter reggae voice-over guides them on “Jamaican Joint,” and deeply devastating bass thugs them out on the rowdy “Crunk Muzik.” 

     For every banger like the Eazy-E-influenced “Certified Gangstas” found on On My Way To Church, there’s an undeniably wack track like the laughable “Bend N Stretch,” ultimately making the album a forgettable one. It should please the Diplomats’ built-in fan base, but those searching for something more in their music need to steer clear away from this disc. 

  Mixtape D.L.
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