Diddy-Dirty Money, Tyga, Lloyd
Friday, April 22
Better Than: That time Diddy’s son took Nicki Minaj to his 16th birthday party.
“Diddy’s not so much my thing,” said a friend as we waited amid hundreds of fans and at least ten gigantic spinning cardboard cutouts of Ciroc bottles at Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday night. “I did like Get Him To The Greek, though,” he conceded soon after. And indeed, it was the MC’s vaguely comical, absolutely larger-than-life public persona that brought us to the Hammerstein tonight. Biggie and Bad Boy Records aside, Sean Combs is a businessman and an all-out entertainer at his core. And despite the handful of surprise guests, run-through of songs from DDM’s debut Last Train To Paris, and emotional Biggie tribute, it was obvious that the point of the night was to clue the audience in on what it was like to be Diddy. And we were buying it.
That’s not to say he wasn’t earnest–in fact, the no-hesitation, swagged-out confidence with which he performs (and lives his life) is likely why Combs is so successful. Tonight, he was joined by his DDM bandmates Kalenna Harper and Dawn Richard, two gigantic video screens (there to beam in Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz, and Chris Brown), a live band, and a smoke machine that definitely earned its keep. While Combs sang along with the slow-groove verses of DDM’s “Loving You No More,” “Yesterday,” and “Angels,” the girls laid the foundation with powerful hooks and get-ups that very nearly upstaged the man of the hour. By the time the girls launched into a Sade medley, complete with “No Ordinary Love,” it was hard not to wonder if there’d be any dancing at all.
Fortunately, the rapper’s Diddy bop soon took over. “Come on now! You know we got hits,” announced Combs at the onset of the night’s dance floor kick-starter, “Bad Boy For Life.” Among his own “All About the Benjamins” and verses from 50 Cent’s party anthem “I Get Money” and Usher’s “I Need A Girl” were guest appearances by Bad Boy familia. Jim Jones bounded onto stage for a quick run through “We Fly High,” Black Rob performed “Whoa,” and the goddess Faith Evans sang through “Love Like This.” The night’s rowdiest surprise came as Q-Tip took the mic for “Vivrant Thing” and “Check the Rhime”–the latter of which Diddy credited as an inspiration for Last Train to Paris.
But let’s not forget the Biggie tribute. The extensive homage to his mentor melted even the strongest-willed in the room, turning the small venue into a massive, heartfelt rap-a-long to the king’s hits. Aside from a short cameo by Junior M.A.F.I.A’s Lil Cease, Combs took the stage solo for the tribute. A montage of photos and video clips of his friend played above as a DJ played “Hypnotized,” “Ten Crack Commandments,” “Juicy,” and other classics as Combs solemnly swayed along, occasionally yelling a sentiment about God. (“Make some noise if you believe in angels!”) But while the past hits certainly made the strongest emotional impact, the radio anthems that closed the night–DDM’s “Coming Home” and “Hello, Good Morning”–reminded the crowd that Diddy still has plenty of new material to sell.
Critical bias: I, too, enjoyed Get Him To The Greek and once marathon-watched the Danity Kane editions of Making The Band.
Overheard: “So wait, did he or didn’t he buy Nicki Minaj’s ass?”
Random notebook dump: Missed opening act Lloyd, who apparently brought out Ja Rule and Ashanti to do “Always On Time.” Uhhhhhhh.