Diddy’s Best Song Ever? A Breakdown of ‘It’s All About the Benjamins’
Sean “Diddy” Combs (aka “Puff Daddy”) has been the mastermind of some of the greatest rap songs in the 1990s. But arguably, one of his greatest bangers coming out of the Bad Boy Records era was his 1997 get-money anthem, “It’s All About the Benjamins.” The all-star posse track featured Diddy, the LOX, Lil’ Kim and the Notorious B.I.G. spitting flossy rhymes about five-carat diamond rings, colossal-sized Picassos, hiding bills in Brazil and stashing 380’s in the Mercedes. Twenty-one years later, the song is undeniable classic in Diddy expansive music catalog.
Produced by Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie for The Hitmen, “It’s All About the Benjamins” appeared on Puffy’s 1997 debut album No Way Out, which was credited to Puff Daddy and the Family. The project arrived at a pivotal time for the Bad Boy Records mogul. On March 9, 1997, Puffy lost his dear friend the Notorious B.I.G. arguably the most talented artist on his label. The label’s future was in question. Could Puffy continue without his superstar artist?
No Way Out was not only a tribute to Puffy’s fallen comrade Biggie, it was also a declaration that he wasn’t going to stop. “For the next two years, I wanna have radio on lock,” said Puffy about creating the album in a 2007 interview with badboyblog.com. “Call the girlfriend, wifey, or whatever, and let ‘em know that you’re not gonna be around for a few weeks. We’re gonna get away from all this drama, put our heads together, and when we come back, we’re coming back with hits.”
The album boasts several hits including the chart-toppers “I’ll Be Missing You,” “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” and “Been Around the World” But "It's All About the Benjamins” is the jewel; a song that will get you riled up in the club as soon as you hear the guitar licks at the beginning (sampled from "I Did It for Love" by the ‘70s group Love Unlimited).
Watch Puff Daddy's "It's All About The Benjamins" (Remix) Video Feat. Lil' Kim, The LOX & The Notorious B.I.G.
Initially, "It's All About the Benjamins" was slated for the LOX's debut album Money, Power & Respect, until Puffy heard the track and removed Styles P's verse.
"The 'Benjamins' was definitely a LOX record and then Puff walked in the room and said, 'well, whoever's going first is over," recalls engineer Stephen Dent who worked on No Way Out. "I think that was Styles P. He said, 'you're off of this record, you know that's my verse' and it ended up being on his album. There was another record he traded them to get on their album, so I can't remember what that one was. It was like a trade, like "yo, I'll give you this one for that one". So, they made the trade. I wouldn't have done it, but they did it."
The original song debuted in 1996 on DJ Clue's Holiday Holdup mixtape and it featured Puffy and the LOX. It was later remixed to include new verses by Notorious B.I.G. and Lil' Kim for No Way Out. Another major component to the song was Missy Elliott. Although not officially credited, the veteran rapper, who was strictly a songwriter at the time, ran the recording session for the original track.
On the song, Puffy sets the tone with his iconic opening line, "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 / Yeah, livin' the raw deal / Three course meals: spaghetti, fettuccine, and veal / But still, everything's real in the field."
While Diddy and the LOX delivered impeccable rhymes on the song, Lil' Kim holds her own and spits probably the best verse on the entire banger. Her delivery is extremely aggressive as she threatens gun talk and voodoo against her arch rivals.
"Uh, uh, what the blood clot / Wanna bumble with the Bee, huh? / Bzzz, throw a hex on the whole family / Dressed in all black like The Omen / Have your friends singin', 'This is for my homie,'" she raps, adding, "If it's murder, you know she wrote it / German Ruger for yo' ass, bitch, deepthroat it."
Biggie closes out the song with his gritty rhymes over a Jackson 5 sample. On his verse, he promises bullets and hell to his enemies, rapping, "Attack with the MAC, my left hand spit / Right hand grip on the whip for the smooth getaway / Player haters, get away or my lead will spray / Squeeze off 'til I'm empty, don't tempt me / Only to Hell I send thee, all about the Benjis."
The dizzying Paul Hunter-directed video, featuring Puffy, the LOX, Lil' Kim and Biggie (on a television screen), takes place in a dimply-lit concert venue and in a forest where the rappers are either running away from something. Puffy also released a rock remix of the song featuring Tommy Stinson, Fuzzbubble, Rob Zombie and Dave Grohl. The song's accompanying music video was directed by Spike Jonze.
Overall, "It's All About the Benjamins" reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and Hot Rap Songs chart. In addition, No Way Out went seven times platinum and won a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
"Man, we were just so hot. I was just so uber-confident," Puffy told Billboard in 2017 about his anthemic song. "I just knew I had to talk it out. It was just during a time when I felt unstoppable as an artist. Hearing all of our voices on those tracks [was special] when you listen to "All About the Benjamins." That's the way that session was. The hottest team in the game was actually doing a recording session and killing it."
Watch Puff Daddy's "It's All About The Benjamins" (Rock Remix) Video Feat. Lil' Kim, The LOX & The Notorious B.I.G.