When I was in college the Bad Boy Record Label was still going strong with the mega hit “Whoa” by Black Rob, which could be heard blasting in the University’s court yard any time of the day. The label had survived the death of its biggest artist, Notorious BIG, and the numerous rap families that were emerging onto the rap scene who were perfecting the formula of having one big star and a supporting cast. I wanted to be a member of Diddy’s “hip hop” clique since I was in the 7th grade, and was not alone with wanting to grow up and be the next Lil’ Kim. Bad Boy’s influence on pop culture was astounding. Come hell or high water, I was going to find a way to be apart of the lavish lifestyle they portrayed that kept it’s people in the best all black or white outfits you could find. So, it is extremely surreal for me to watch Diddy give a college commencement speech. I didn’t do that well when I began college because l was practicing becoming a great lyricist in hopes of being signed by the likes of Diddy or someone similar, instead of hitting the books. I had plenty of company with those that were waiting for their opportunity to shine, or for all of their problems to go away when they were instantly signed by a record label. Eventually, I understood that people like Diddy were creating a fantasy for the masses that didn’t match the struggle that I was surrounded by daily. With this revelation, I decided to finish school with a degree in English Literature at age 20. However, their were many who didn’t catch on to the mirage that Diddy and his peers created, and for them music ended up taking way more than it gave.
Diddy’s ability to make something out of nothing, while getting people to believe his vision as a true representation of what success looks like, has garnered him the reputation of being brilliant in business. However, he is known almost as much for being accused of shady practices by former artist and colleagues. With that being said, I admire that he didn’t let the gray cloud of negative perception and poor decisions hang over him. He refused to let any of it stop his potential, or allow himself to be satisfied with only achievement in the music industry, and being just known as the guy who invented the remix. He has become a fashion mogul, a pioneer in reality television, a broad way actor, the face of high end alcoholic beverages, and competed in and finished the New York Marathon. Not to mention the tons of men that follow his footsteps in hopes of becoming a famous party promoter, drawing in massive crowds, and becoming a brand that all types of people want to be affiliated with. No matter what Diddy told the graduates of Howard University about not stopping, taking a chance, and knowing your own power, he actually said more with what he didn’t say.
By giving the commencement speech at a school that he only completed 2 years of, he told the audience that ultimately you write your own story, determine how it ends, and to never let anyone or establishment dictate who you will become. In the audience listening to him, was the man that gave him his first break in the music industry, Andre Harrell, and who also fired him. This firing led to him to starting Bad Boy Records. Diddy’s speech, while maybe not captivating or even life changing, his life certainly is. And now he was receiving an honorary doctorate degree, giving him even more the ability to tell his nay sayers “take that, take that”.
The one thing any graduate, whether from a University or of life, should be able to take from Diddy’s speech is the only way to silence your critics is to not listen to them. Your ambition should not be limited to what others feel you deserve or feel you should go after. Your dreams should only be controlled by what you want. No Diddy, wasn’t the first person to start and run a successful record label, he wasn’t the first person to throw elaborate parties, he wasn’t the first person in music that became interested in fashion, and he certainly wasn’t the first person to complete the New York Marathon. But you know what, he acts like he was. And, inspite of who may not like it, there is certainly more that love it.
Diddy’s Commencement Speech
Rachel Bryant Lundy