If you happen to pass by Sean Combs, be sure to wish him a happy birthday, as the man better known as Diddy turns 40 years old today. While it's bizarre to think if Diddy as a guy in the depths of middle age, it's also odd to think that he isn't older. Diddy has been such a dominant, ubiquitous force in pop culture since the '90s that it's almost as if he has always been with us. There have been countless highs (smash hits like "It's All About the Benjamins," "I'll Be Missing You" and "Bad Boy for Life") and devastating lows (most notably the death of his friend the Notorious B.I.G.), but he has certainly changed the face of hip-hop and gave rise to the idea of diversification among pop stars. He's dabbled in fashion, fragrances, restaurants and alcohol, and his empire is constantly expanding.
They say hip-hop is a young man's game, though that's mostly because the art form itself is only about 30 years old. Still, there aren't a whole lot of artists who are aging as gracefully as Diddy is, though a handful of these 40-and-over elder statesmen join him. (Jay-Z enters the club in December.)
Early Career: Built grimy beats and rapped psychedelic nonsense alongside his Wu-Tang Clan brothers on the instant classic Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
Today: Spends equal time in the music world (mostly behind the decks) and the film world (where he both acts and provides scores for friends like Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino).
Early Career: Blew the doors off rap music as the main mouthpiece of Public Enemy, who brought politics and social issues to mainstream hip-hop.
Today: Spends most of his time on activism via radio and the Web, though he is currently working on a new PE album.
Early Career: Cut up classic beats as one half of influential tag-team Gang Starr.
Today: Still provides cutting-edge beats and production for artists as diverse as Ludacris, Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5 while also giving up-and-comers and underground cats a boost.
Early Career: Built parents-scaring beats for N.W.A, then invented an entire movement with The Chronic.
Today: Though the world is still waiting for Detox, Dre still puts in time behind the scenes with a number of high-profile artists (including Eminem and 50 Cent) and is also responsible for a killer pair of headphones.
Early Career: Was the primary lyrical voice of N.W.A., then broke off on a killer solo career, turning out classic full-lengths like AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted.
Today: Cube has fashioned himself into an extremely bankable film star and continues to put out deeply underrated albums (last year's Raw Footage was full of bangers that got very little fanfare).