MSNBC.com has labeled Kanye West "the thinking man's Diddy", because West seems to be following the same career trajectory as Sean Combs. Could we really take any more Kanye? Could we imagine a world where Kanye West has a hand in just about every public arena that exists? Kanye the producer/rapper/clothing designer/filmmaker/record label exec/televison producer/director/wannabe political activist/socialite/etc.?
It’s a comparison with merit, if not completely accurate. Both are producers-turned-rappers. Diddy, with his ever-changing moniker and ubiquitous white suits, is one of the first hip-hop millionaire moguls. West, with his expanding business ventures, follows that tradition.
But unlike Diddy, who brought hip-hop to Top 40 radio via watered-down beats, West bridges the gap between socially conscious rap and party music. And he succeeds in Top 40 anyway. If anything, West is a thinking man’s Diddy, a hip-hop mogul for the new millennium.
While Diddy and Kanye have both ventured into the socio-political realm, Diddy's moments of social consciousness seem to be just that: a brief interlude from spending money and reveling in excess, usually to plug some new project. Kanye's attempts to voice his opinions on serious issues seem to be less calculated, and more sincere.
… Diddy’s community efforts often smell of publicity stunt (and maybe a tax write-off). It’s as if Diddy is, Lady Macbeth-style, trying to scrub away the bad vibes of his '90s mishaps — the club shooting incident with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, the copious lawsuits and the whole East Coast/West Coast rap wars.
West loves to toot his horn, but his activism seems uncalculated, and sometimes bad for his career. Diverting from script to state “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” on live television during the NBC Hurricane Katrina Benefit in 2005 could’ve resulted in West’s banishment from TV. Denouncing gay bashing in homophobia-laden hip-hop could’ve resulted in lost record sales and audience.
Diddy takes chances, but typically his seem to be on the low-risk level. Would Diddy ever take a stand on homophobia in Hip Hop? I don't think so. If it would make him loads of money, I think he might consider it, but even then, someone else would have to champion it first, and show that they've achieved some minor success from taking such a risk before Diddy would even bother to go there. Kanye, for all of his annoying bravado, actually is a true maverick, always ready to back up his statements by "walking the walk".