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Column: Hip Hop #04

By ; May 20, 2010 at 12:05 AM 

Diddy says he runs the hip hop game. Really, he said he’s the “undisputed heavyweight champion.” Well, perfect excuse to talk about him. Is it Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Sean John, Dirty Money, or just Diddy? I guess he thinks changing his name around is the way to stay relevant. Aside from when I’m writing, I still haven’t stopped calling him Puff. I even hear he’s planning to change it to something Obama-themed – Ciroc Obama, to advertise the Vodka brand. Sigh. You’re not Prince. So what has Diddy really done? He’s made a ton of money, that is certainly undisputable, but has he done much of anything aside from leech off from those more talented than himself?

Ok, maybe that’s unfair. Doesn’t change the fact that Diddy hasn’t… let’s see… released a good album of his own, ever? Material with The Family doesn’t count. How about recent activity? Did anyone actually buy Press Play? Okay, I looked it up, it debuted at #1. Did anyone even like Press Play? Even that record relied nearly entirely on guest spots, racking up an impressive one song with Diddy going solo. And now Mr. “Undisputed” has had a record – Last Train to Paris (really?) – delayed again and again. Most recently he’s moved the album again from a mid-June spot. Hell, he runs the game, right? Of course he’s “Not Afraid” of Recovery. The white boy would crush him and he knows it.

So if Diddy’s not King, who is? Tricky question. His lack of rapping skill doesn’t immediately bar him from the title. Something many seem either ignorant of or uninterested in considering is that this question doesn’t really fall to who’s the best MC. We can haggle about Eminem vs. Weezy and so on all day, but this question truly comes down to who’s had the most influence. So let’s consider Diddy. Firstly: Biggie. Of course. His signing of and the press he created for Wallace is undisputedly (there ya go, Puff!) important to hip hop. However, to be fair, Chris had already been posted in the unsigned hype in The Source, so if you ask me, chances are he would have blown regardless. Might even have lived – Suge and Diddy essentially broiled that conflict forward with their superproducer egos. Ok, that’s probably the most loaded statement I’ve ever written. It’s likely true that Chris would’ve ended up at odds with Pac regardless, so I should bite my tongue.

I digress. Back to Diddy: what exactly has he done post-Notorious? He – in my view – kind of cashed in on his friend’s death with “I’ll Be Missing You” and got a huge hit. Produced for people all over the place, banged Jennifer Lopez, and got out of charges that Shyne didn’t. Is that really very impressive? In his claim he declares that he was the first artist to take rap shows to Europe. Really think what is arguably now the world’s most popular musical form wasn’t headed there anyway?

As for his production, I think it’s fair to say that it’s widely recognized that it tapered off into decent-at-best material and often was subpar. He can certainly lay claim to kicking off the obsession with over-sampling, but that’s not something to be proud of. I’m reducing some of his achievements, but really, Diddy’s influence in the game without Biggie amounts to little more than being a savvy businessman. He can certainly sit back and applaud himself for making it big time, but as to his true importance in regards to hip hop, Diddy is kidding himself. Looking at Rapbasement’s article on his declaration, it has thus far received a – literally – 0% approval rating. I’d never seen such a thing. That he can get an entire community of hip hop enthusiasts to unanimously agree on anything is almost something Diddy can be proud of, but that in an industry where every rapper around has at least someone ready to thrust G.O.A.T. status at them, Puff can certainly be sure that he is not anywhere near being considered as big a deal as he fancies himself.

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