In many ways, Sean “Diddy” Combs was the maestro of a generation and the remix was his baton. Since his early days — back when he remixed Jodeci’s “Come and Talk to Me” in ’92 — he’s managed to change the landscape of music with an ear for excellence and a knack for crafting the perfect soundtrack to recreation.
There’s a scene in Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story that helps define Diddy’s sound and approach. “In the late ‘80s, it was rough [in Harlem],” Puff explains in the documentary, which is available exclusively via iTunes
“It was rough out there, but it was Blackness, hip-hop, [and] go-go in its full splendor and glory. Honestly, that was the birth of Hip-Hop Soul. That gave birth to the way I heard music.”
With the help of The Hitmen and a slew of carefully-curated samples, Puff was able to take all of that splendor and weave it into the fabric of his work. Eventually, this ethos of “takin’ hits from the ‘80s” and modernizing them to “sound so crazy,” became the fiber of Bad Boy and the texture of music, as a whole. It redefined the remix.
Puff was able to do this by selecting familiar samples and genre-bending in a way that hadn’t been done extensively before. Early examples of this can be heard on Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411? (Remix)” (with Notorious B.I.G. and K-Ci beside her) and “Real Love (Remix)” (featuring Biggie once again). This revamped the way remixes were constructed, laying a solid foundation for the reigning remix king to build upon.
In the following years, Diddy sharpened those skills with Bad Boy artists. He made history with Biggie’s iconic “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” and Craig Mack’s game-changing “Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)” (which features LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Biggie, Rampage, and his own Warriors-inspired “Bad Boy” chant). This success nearly made the remix mandatory since the revamps were often more popular than the originals. Proven results followed with Total’s “Can’t You See (Bad Boy Remix)” (featuring Keith Murray) and 112’s “Only You (Bad Boy Remix)” (featuring Ma$e and B.I.G.).
But Diddy didn’t just remix songs; he also remixed careers. Take Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy (Remix),” for example. Few would have paired the pop princess with the (beloved, but legitmately) Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but the unlikely combination allowed her to gain an edgier sound and crossover into Hip-Hop without losing her essence. Later, she teamed up with Diddy again, for a similar effect, on “Honey (Bad Boy Remix)” with The Lox and Ma$e.
This formula worked in reverse, as well. Just peep Method Man’s Mary J. Blige-assisted “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By (Remix).” The track gave Johnny Blaze a smoother, more lovingly vulnerable side (and a platinum plaque to go with it). Puff understood how to create chemistry and hits where others didn’t, and this helped strengthen his Midas touch.
While helping artists break conventions, his remixes also broke musical boundaries. Sampling The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” on “I’ll Be Missing You” allowed him to remix the group’s classic “Roxanne” in ‘97 with Pras. That same year, he dropped “It’s All About the Benjamins (Rock Remix I),” featuring Biggie, Lil’ Kim, and The Lox, alongside Dave Grohl, Rob Zombie, FuzzBubble, and Perfect. His rap and rock fusions would continue with Limp Bizkit’s “My Way (The P Diddy Remix)” and leaked versions of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Perfect” and “Ava Adore” remixes. Combs even broke language barriers with “P.E. 2000 (Spanish Remix),” in which he rhymed the whole song in Spanish.
Through all of the above, Puff’s remixes became ubiquitous. They were so prominent, in fact, that he boldly titled his 2002 album We Invented the Remix. It features standouts like “I Need a Girl (Part Two),” G-Dep’s “Special Delivery (Remix),” and Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama (Remix),” and it was a crowning moment for the producer who once bragged about getting “chips to breathe on remixes” (fittingly on the “Bad Boy Remix” to “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”). Watching Puff’s dominance continue on for nearly 3 decades, it’s clear that, while he may not have technically invented the remix, he’s definitely perfected it.