Diddy Talks the Current State of Hip-Hop, East Coast-West Coast Rivalry Between Biggie and Tupac

P Diddy
Daniela Federici

P Diddy

"I think that the state of hip-hop…we’re in our most powerful state. We can make change," Diddy says while promoting his new show, 'The Four.'

For Diddy, there’s no such thing as “Mo Money, Mo Problems” because the entrepreneur keeps expanding his multi-million dollar empire. Deemed as the richest man in rap, there’s nobody holding him down right now. From signing on to the Fox series, The Four: Battle for Stardom, to releasing the newest Ciroc flavor French Vanilla in partnership with French Montana, the rap icon has been running hip-hop for over two decades.

Most recently, Sean “Diddy” Combs joined a star-studded panel of judges -- DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor, and music executive Charlie Walk -- for the singing competition show, The Four, premiering Jan. 4 on Fox. The show is a fresh take on talent searches, seeing that it literally starts off on a high note, introducing four top-notch vocalists who are ready to battle it out and retain those spots against new challengers week after week.

It’s evident that the media mogul has always been passionate about finding new talent, having a respectable track record with competition shows such as Making the Band, I Want to Work With Diddy, and Starmaker. The “Bad Boy for Life” decided to take the plunge and return to television with the innovative series, admitting that in order for him to appear back on the small screen, he needed it to have an “interesting” or “provocative” factor, and claims it does.

Uninterested in the status quo, Combs ultimately wants to make “great TV” and reveals he will enter the show being “unpredictable.” He insinuates that the network is putting it in his hands (and the hands of the other judges) to use their expertise to find the next megastar regardless of music genre. “I’m really excited to be working with Fox. I’m going to tell the truth and I’m going to help you be the greatest you could ever be, but I would say I represent truth,” he confidently states.

While auditions are currently underway, the hip-hop figure shares that he is specifically searching for the next Latin powerhouse. “I am excited to possibly find the next Marc Anthony. I’m a big Marc Anthony fan,” he says. “You know, it would be a big dream come true to me if I could find somebody that’s the male or female Marc Anthony. I have no problem with singing in Spanish, and I think it would be disruptive in this world to see that.”

During an exclusive sit-down at Smashbox Studios, Diddy chatted with Billboard about the impact of The Four judges, the current state of hip-hop, and the world’s fascination with the East Coast-West Coast rivalry between the legendary rappers, The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.

You've been involved with singing competition shows before such as Making of the Band. Was there anything in particular from those experiences that you didn't do, but you wanted to bring to this show?

I really don’t know. I know that I have a lot of experience in this. I don’t know if the guy from Making the Band will show back up or there’s going to be a new guy. It really just depends on whatever I have to pull out to get us to be successful and to really be their greatest. That’s what I’m going to do.

What makes this show so special in comparison to setting out on your own and finding talent behind the scenes?

I think that a great collective brings about the most success. Yes. I can do this on my own, but teaming up with Fox, who understands the culture and who is ready to embrace the culture, understands us. [They’re] ready to bring something diverse and disruptive to the marketplace. DJ Khaled, who you know is a leader in the culture, and somebody who represents opportunity and a dreamer…that’s the basis of this show. But when you take the curveball that is Charlie Walk…I’m telling you as an artist, I would want a guy like that beside me because he’s gonna make sure my record gets played. That my career is straight. So you may see some of these shows, and then after the show, these people are kind of left behind to fend for themselves. This is more of a relationship in whatever capacity we can play to help you to be great. We don’t have to be part of their lives forever, but whatever we could do after the show.  That’s what people are getting. And then you got Meghan, who is everybody’s best friend. We need her there, from a perspective of a writer, and a recording artist that’s been in that position of having a lineup of other artists on a bill.

You’re always pushing the culture forward -- paying it forward. What would you say is the current state of hip-hop right now?

I would say hip-hop is the most successful and most popular it’s ever been.

Do you think hip-hop is finally getting the recognition it deserves?

I think people grew up. You got to understand, it’s just the times. You got people that grew up in the early ‘90s that are now full-fledged adults. And that’s the music they listened to, so you have like over three generations [or] four generations that have invested in hip-hop. It’s the truest form of music that kids around the world can relate to and I think that the state of hip-hop…we’re in our most powerful state. We can make change. We can have a voice socially, politically, economically and artistically.

It’s interesting because critics say there will never be another Biggie or hip-hop is not at the same quality level it was in the ‘90s. Do you agree?

It’s just different. It’s like hearing somebody older say turn off that rock 'n’ roll. Hip-hop has grown up and it has to be fearless and embrace, even though some people like the timeless stuff. It’s just a new time and it’s a new era, so it’s like you got to get down or lay down when it comes to music. You know, no matter what, only the songs survive. That’s the beauty about this show is that you’re dealing with people that have No. 1 records. There’s not a lot of people in the world that have had a bunch of No. 1 records.

You’ve always been in the business of making stars, and you’ve said you want to make sure those artists last forever. With that said, is there a key to that? How do you ensure you sustain that?

I think quality over quantity. I remember the people that gave me quality…that were the people that gave me the quantity.

Who by chance were those people?

So many. Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, James Brown. You have JAY-Z, Nas, Kendrick and Future. People that are consistent.

A lot of networks (USA Network, A&E, Fox, etc.) are trying to depict the East Coast-West Coast rivalry between Biggie & Tupac. Why do you think we’re still looking for those answers? And do you think we’ll ever get those answers?

It’s part of our history. I mean you never know what happens in life, but I just think people are intrigued on it. Not from a negative standpoint, just a historical standpoint. And it’s important that you delve into the different historical things that happen in hip-hop. I understand the desire and the fascination with it. It is fascinating how hip-hop has gone from where it was to the late ‘80s to what we did in the ‘90s to be a multi-multi-billion dollar industry right now.