P. Diddy has an impeccable eye for talent. Whatever you think about his skills as a rapper, the ethics of his business decisions, or the validity of his acting ability, when it comes to spotting music genius, Sean Combs is among the best.
All you have to do is take a look at the long list of phenomenal artists that have been on his payroll at one time or another: The Notorious B.I.G., Usher, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Mase, Janelle Monáe, and French Montana, just to name a few. Best known for his work in the early 1990s with Bad Boy Records, Diddy continued to produce, manage, and feature on songs with iconic rappers all the way up to the modern day.
Now, he’s one of the last survivors of hip hop’s most tumultuous time. As Tupac was killed, Suge Knight went to jail, and Death Row Records shut its doors, Diddy and Bad Boy continue to proliferate the market with some of the best (Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer) and worst (Machine Gun Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall) albums of contemporary hip hop.
But who does Diddy personally cite as being the best? When it comes to modern day rappers, he’s thrown a few names out there, some of which are unexpected and some of which are entirely unsurprising. Back in 2011, Diddy shared who he believed to be the five best rappers in a chat with DJ Absolut. Rap is a genre that changes faster than perhaps any other, so someone probably needs to ask him again so we can update. But then again, this is a pretty evergreen list.
P. Diddy’s five favourite rappers
Diddy knew the power of Rick Ross right from the get-go: after releasing the single ‘Hustlin’, Ross was the subject of a massive bidding war between record companies. Bad Boy threw their hat into the ring, but Ross eventually signed with Jay-Z over at Def Jam Recordings.
Although he lost out on securing Ross for Bad Boy, it doesn’t appear as though that has done anything to dull the respect that Diddy has for the Miami rapper. Ross is one of those interesting figures who’s incredibly famous and well respected without ever really having a significant pop crossover (most of his biggest hits have him in a featured role), leaving his image unsullied by “sellout” claims. He’s got Diddy’s respect, and he should have yours too.
New York runs strong with Diddy, and he gives a shout out to perhaps his main rival in the whole “I’m not a rapper, I’m an entrepreneur” game. That said, it’s probably more appropriate to quote HOV himself: “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man”.
Jay-Z’s skills as a lyricist and rapper were never in doubt, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Diddy respects the hustle more than anything else. Never one to let good business opportunities pass them by, Diddy and Jay-Z are united in that unquenchable desire to take over the world, one rhyme at a time.
Diddy and Lil Wayne are two figures that seem to be connected through some intangible brotherhood: they fight like brothers, they make up like brothers, and they repeat the cycle every so often. If Lil Wayne goes to jail, Diddy visits him. If Wayne uses too much autotune, Diddy is critical of it. They contain multitudes, but they always come back to each other.
Part of that bond comes with sharing the stage, or the recording booth, on a couple of occasions. Most notably on Mary J. Blige’s ‘Somebody to Love Me’, which was recently released at the time, proving Diddy never passes up a good opportunity for some self-promotion.
Even back in 2011, if you weren’t on the Drake hip train, you were going to be left behind. Although he only had two studio albums under his belt at the time, they were two monsters: Thank Me Later and Take Care.
This perhaps looks like the pick that has aged all the best. Drake recently put out his worst album with Certified Lover Boy, went head to head with Kanye, and is still pretty much on top of the rap world.
For those who might not be as familiar with this name compared to the previous five, Fabolous is one of those titanic figures who doesn’t get name-checked in the mainstream quite as often. His contributions to hip hop, however, are clear if you look at his body of work.
Notching a few top five hits in America during the early 2000s, Fab’s style is a mix of slick production and hard-hitting rhymes. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Diddy went with Fabolous: one, because they make similar kinds of records, and two, because it lets him give another shout out to New York: “I would have to roll with Fab, I would have to roll with the home team.”