As he once rhymed, the Joneses are out; people are trying to keep up with the Combses. Even with his shiny suits tucked deep in the back of his closet, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is once again the most visible man in the rap world.
Not that Diddy ever took an extended break from the music biz despite his evolving career as a fashion powerhouse with the Sean John line, not to mention his occasional acting gigs but with all the politicking he's been doing in the past year, he's making it hard for others to have any lapses. "Stop" still hasn't checked into his vocabulary.
After being found not guilty of bribery and weapons charges in March of last year (see MTV News' Full Puffy/Shyne Trial Coverage), Diddy spearheaded a Bad Boy Records comeback, releasing critically heralded albums by himself, 112, Faith Evans and G. Dep.
And while a large portion of Puff's 2001 was spent on the comeback trail courtesy of The Saga Continues (1999's Forever had been somewhat of a commercial disappointment), 2002 has been all about blazing new trails. The platinum-plus We Invented the Remix proved fans are still feeling him, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart (see "P. Diddy Outpaces Cam'ron, Weezer, Moby To Debut At #1"). And it's obvious his peers are loving him too, as Diddy's been collaborating with everyone from Mary J. Blige to Cash Money's Baby via production work and guest appearances.
Just how Diddy do it? Here's the blueprint (and here are the photos):
Bumrush the Show
P. Diddy is scheduled to perform at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, but a big step in Puff's industry takeover involved taking over 2001's main event. Arguably the grandest VMA red carpet entrance of all time, the Puffster and his Bad Boys left the stretch SUV in the garage in favor of an enormous flatbed truck. With most of his musical family dressed in New York Giants jerseys, Diddy placed all eyes and ears on himself, rolling up with mics, amps and speakers to perform "Bad Boy for Life."
"I felt like we was coming to crash the whole f---ing awards," recalled Loon, who took the ride with Diddy on the truck. "We're five blocks down [from Lincoln Center] before we get there. We just riding, looking crazy, n---as running out on the street, hollering and following us. Then the truck just pulls up and it's show time. Lights, camera, action! Nothing but suits, elegant dresses. ... You got all kinds of sh-- going on."
Invade TV Screens
The Bad Boys and girls definitely came out to play in the past year. Diddy alone appeared in 14 music videos, cheering Usher up in "U Don't Have to Call" and egging Busta Rhymes on to stomp on Monique's pinky toe in "Pass the Courvoisier Pt. 2." He even found time for family business, opening up a knockoff FedEx with G. Dep in "Special Delivery" and shaking it up in the clubs with Faith and her guest Missy Elliot and Freeway in the remix of "Burnin' Up."
"I think it's cool," Wyclef Jean said about Diddy getting so much exposure. "He has an album called We Invented the Remix, and he's been in the game for years and he's always changing. Some people doubt Puffy, but he's not going anywhere. He's a big part of hip-hop."
Turn Your Breakup Into a Pay-Up
Parting ways with a dimepiece like Jennifer Lopez is enough to keep any man balled up in the fetal position for weeks, but after his breakup with J. Lo, P.D. kept things moving all the way to the bank. He kept the fans dancing in clubs and calling up the video and radio request lines, at the same time declaring his single status with the smashes "I Need a Girl, Pt. 1" and "I Need a Girl, Pt. 2." Before J. Lo could even think about putting out her gripe-flooded ode to an ex, "Ain't It Funny" (which, for the record, she and Diddy deny is about their relationship), she had to cut Puffy a check.
"When you sample, it breaks down into two ways," explained Irv Gotti, who co-produced the J. Lo hit, which makes use of part of the Bad Boy Records catalog: Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear." "Like, say I [re-created the sound of] 'Flava in Ya Ear' but I didn't sample the record, then it's just a plain publishing fee and they take whatever percentage they want from the song. But the fact that we sampled the record, then you got to pay a master use too. So it was two things we had to pay for that, a master use and a publishing use."
Do It All (Over)
Puff, who debuted at #1 in April with his We Invented the Remix LP, squelched any doubt that he was king of remixes, not only with his own retoolings of "I Need a Girl," but by dropping bars alongside his peers on their musical do-overs. Swizz Beatz most recently joined the incessant line of artists (including Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri, N.O.R.E., Fabolous, Mr. Cheeks, Tweet, Whitney Houston and Busta Rhymes) that have called on Puff to drop his smooth-as-baby-oil bars on their tracks.
"We're gonna put Puff on a bunch of remixes and keep him hot," Diddy's right-hand man and main Bad Boy A&R guy, Harve Pierre, explained in March on the set of the "I Need a Girl, Pt. 1" video.
Loon, Faith and G. Dep have also been keeping Diddy zesty with their various guest spots. For added measure, Diddy even gave the nod to Michael Jackson and Ashanti to use Notorious B.I.G.'s vocals on their albums.
Return to Your Roots
While P. Diddy the artist has been as dominant in the past year as major league hurler Curt Schilling, he's hoping to carve out another section for himself in the hip-hop annals with two of his other jobs: producer and executive.
Diddy and Mario Winans have most recently given 3LW a hit with "I Do (Wanna Get Close to You)" and are hoping to do the same with tracks they laid down for the upcoming Justin Timberlake LP, Justified, and Foxy Brown's Ill Na Na 2: The Fever.
Puffy will undoubtedly be supplying tracks for Mary J. Blige and Loon as well. Like he did for Foxy's project, he's serving as executive producer on those albums. Puff has an extra vested interest in Loon's debut, since the LP is coming out on Bad Boy.
In July, Diddy officially ended his partnership with distributor Arista, buying back all of Bad Boy's master recordings (see "P. Diddy Weighs Bad Boy Distribution Deals, Eyes Foxy Brown"). No announcement has been made yet, but in May he let the world know he was close to jumping in bed with another major label to put out all future Bad Boy recordings.
"[There are] a lot of conversations going on. Everybody that I'm dating right now is looking very sexy and beautiful," he said earlier this year, offering a metaphor for his business negotiations. "We're in a great place. It's a lot of people talking the type of language I like hearing. It feels like I could go outside with a bikini thong on right now. It feels very hot and toasty, very heat-wavish right now over at Bad Boy."
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.