Sean “Diddy” Combs launched Bad Boy Records in 1993, quickly amassing the talent that would turn it into one of the most influential hip-hop labels of all time. Now, 30 years later, he’s assigning music publishing rights back to those artists rather than selling off the valuable catalog.
Bad Boy has already struck deals with artists including Faith Evans, Mase, the Lox, 112, and the estate of the Notorious B.I.G. to return rights to their material, a representative confirmed to Rolling Stone. Terms of these agreements, which Combs began pursuing in 2021, have not been made public. In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, the billionaire mogul’s camp called the move “unprecedented,” speculating that it “could impact the industry and shift how artists are compensated.”
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While musicians from Bob Dylan to Justin Bieber have sold off their back catalogs for astronomical prices in recent years as demand for such assets boomed, Combs reportedly turned down similar but unspecified offers to acquire Bad Boy’s enviable list for millions. According to the statement on his behalf, Combs sees the decision to restore publishing rights to songwriters who helped built the label “as part of a broader goal of promoting economic empowerment for Black artists and culture.”
Notably, Combs had been previously criticized by Bad Boy rapper Mase for failing to adequately compensate those on his roster. After he criticized the Recording Academy at a pre-Grammys gala event where he received an “Industry Icons” award in 2020, claiming that “Black music has never been respected by the Grammys,” Mase unloaded on Diddy as a hypocrite in a since-deleted Instagram post.
“Your past business practices knowingly has continued purposely starved your artist and been extremely unfair to the very same artist that helped u obtain that Icon Award on the iconic Badboy label,” Mase wrote at the time, alleging that Combs had turned down an offer of $2 million to buy back his publishing, even though Mase had only received $20,000 for the rights originally. “This is not black excellence at all,” he added. Diddy claimed in 2022 that Mase owed him a $3 million advance on an album he never delivered, which prompted another angry Instagram post from Mase — this one mentioning Combs’ mother — that was later taken down.
If Diddy is in the mood to clear the air, it would make sense ahead of what sounds like a feel-good new record from the producer, The Love Album: Off the Grid. His first solo LP in 17 years, it drops on Sept. 15 and is packed with featured guests including The Weeknd, Bieber, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, and pretty much everyone else you’ve ever heard of.
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