(June 29, 2024).  Artificial Intelligence may someday be able to solve world hunger.

But for now, we’ll have to settle for it finding solutions to easier problems, like how to keep one of rap’s most beloved bops of the ‘90s from being cancelled alongside its highly unpopular lead artist, who happens to be the most reviled, most cancellable musical act this side of R. Kelly.

That artist is Sean “Diddy” Combs, who was caught on a 2016 video severely abusing his then-girlfriend, singer and actress Cassie (Ventura), and has been paying the price both professionally and in the media ever since the video leaked earlier this year.

First, he exited his post as an executive of the media company Revolt, which he cofounded.  He’s since had his “Sean Diddy Combs Day” revoked by the Miami Beach Commission.  And he’s had to return the “Key to New York City” after the mayor rescinded that honor, which is presented to individuals who, in part, act “as a model for fellow and future New Yorkers.”

Aside from the above plus any endorsement deals he had, it goes without saying that his classic songs — those that were still being played in the two decades since his last major hit — are receiving fewer radio plays and streams since CNN first broke the news of the Cassie video in May and in the wake of numerous other sexual assault or harassment allegations made by both women and men at Diddy’s expense.

But a New York DJ has found a way to keep one of his most beloved classics on the air — sans the artist’s very prominent vocals, which lead off the original track.

The song in question is the smash single “It’s All About the Benjamins,” from Diddy’s debut album No Way Out.  That 1997 album was billed to Puff Daddy & the Family, reflecting both Diddy’s professional moniker at the time and the assemblage of artists from his Bad Boy Enterprise and beyond — like the Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Lil’ Kim, the LOX, 112 and more — who appeared on the LP.

A still shot from the video clip of Puff Daddy & the Family’s “It’s All About the Benjamins” (1997)

“Benjamins,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early ‘98 (in a joint listing with its B-side, “Been Around the World”) making it one of the rapper/producer’s biggest hits, was a collaboration between Diddy and the late Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered earlier in 1997 while the album was being recorded, plus Lil Kim who was on loan from her label Atlantic Records, and Bad Boy newcomers The LOX, a rap trio that included members Sheek Louch, Styles P, and Jadakiss.

Thanks to Cipha Sounds, a former DJ at New York’s Hot 97 (which Diddy name-checked in the song’s original verse) who currently spins tunes at the city’s 94.7 The Block, a new “No Diddy” remix of the track has been created using none other than Jadakiss’ voice in place of Diddy’s.  

The song’s opening lines, which famously began: “Now, what y’all wanna do?/ Wanna be ballers, shot callers, brawlers?/ Who be dippin’ in the Benz with the spoilers?/ On the low from the jake in the Taurus/ Tryin’ to get my hands on some Grants like Horace,” were originally sung by Diddy.

In the new AI-assisted remix, it’s 49-year-old Jadakiss — or “AI Kiss” — who raps those lines, which is only fair considering that it was the former LOX rapper who wrote those lyrics for Puffy in the first place.   

This is all made even more interesting when AI Kiss’ new vocals are juxtaposed against the next lines, which were originally also sung by then-22-year-old Jada.  So you get to hear a middle-aged version of the New York rapper segue into a younger, hungrier version of himself in the same tune, on back-to-back lines.

Here is a YouTube clip of the new remix.

In explaining his inspiration to create the “No Diddy” mix, Cipha Sounds told writer Will Schube of the online magazine HipHopDX, “P. Diddy is canceled. Whatever crazy shit happened with him, that’s over there. I’m talking about Hip Hop-wise, as a DJ from New York City – I’m on 94.7 The Block – they telling me I can’t play P. Diddy’s music no more,” he said.

“I can’t play ‘All About the Benjamins’?!

Are you crazy?! How am I even supposed to live as a DJ in New York City and I can’t even play ‘All About the Benjamins’? You need to understand, ‘All About the Benjamins’ is one of the greatest Hip Hop New York songs ever recorded!”

Well, technology that didn’t exist in 1997 when the original version was recorded certainly is in play today.  And isolating (and deleting) one’s vocals and then replacing them with another artist’s is indeed an all-too-easy and somewhat scary prospect when you really think about it.  It’s similar to what happened earlier this year when another New York artist — Alicia Keys — had a somewhat flatly performed vocal at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show (with Usher) replaced by a more in-tune version of her singing “If I Ain’t Got You,” for online consumption.

Artificial intelligence — dangerous as it may be — has indeed made for some easy solutions to what were once complex problems, even if it means taking the human element out of our very existence and revising history in the process.

But AI is definitely here to stay, as are some of hip-hop’s biggest classics like “It’s All About the Benjamins,” even as the artists who made them are being cancelled for inappropriate and, in Diddy’s case, criminally wrong behavior.

Sadly, Diddy is likely still owed residuals from any airplay and streaming of the “No Diddy” remix of “Benjamins.”  There may even be a licensing litigation issue or a copyright infringement lawsuit in the making because of it.  

We’ll see.

But Diddy, who recently gutted his Instagram account of all its content — including an ill-played video apology he issued in May — certainly has bigger worries right now.


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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By DJ Rob

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