Skip to content

Sean 'Diddy' Combs reassigns music rights to former Bad Boy Records artists

The move follows years of feuding between the Black Catholic-raised media mogul and his former labelmates over lopsided deals signed in the 1990s.


In a shock move, media mogul Sean “Love” Combs—popularly known as Diddy—has reportedly reassigned music publishing rights to popular artists formerly signed to his Bad Boy Records label, including the estate of the late Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace.

The deals, involving assets said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were reported by Billboard and Variety on September 4.

“Combs sees it as part of a broader goal of promoting economic empowerment for Black artists and culture,” a source told Variety.

The news first emerged several days prior, when the rapper Cameron “Cam’ron” Giles posted on social media that the 53-year-old Bad Boy executive had reassigned publishing rights to former labelmate Mason “Ma$e” Betha—the rapper-turned-pastor known for his 1997 hit “What You Want.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @mr_camron

Ma$e and Combs have for years feuded over the lopsided deal signed by the former in 1996, which granted exclusive rights to Combs for Ma$e’s music recorded with Bad Boy—including five platinum singles and #1 hits, and the quadruple-platinum 1997 album “Harlem World.”

Ma$e would later claim that Combs frequently signed unfair deals with his Bad Boy recording artists, intentionally depriving them of their due proceeds. At its height, the label was known as the premier East Coast hip-hop outfit, generating an estimated $100M in revenue and garnering various industry accolades. 

Combs would parlay that success into a number of other successful business ventures, including an acting career, reality show, tequila brand deal, and popular clothing line. In 2022, he was estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, making him by far one of the most successful names in hip-hop history.

This year, Bad Boy Records is celebrating its 30th anniversary, having been founded in 1993 and launching the careers of Biggie, Craig Mack, Shyne, and, in the modern era, artists such as Yung Joc, Danity Kane, and Cassie.

To celebrate, the Catholic-raised Combs seems to have turned a charitable new leaf in reassigning rights to his former artists, several of whom have long requested to have a larger share in the profits from their music. Bad Boy Records, now part of a conglomerate known as Combs Global, was also once home to singers Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, and 112.

The label’s fortunes declined drastically following the shooting death of the Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, with several artists leaving the label and Combs signing a distribution deal with Warner Music Group in 2005. While Combs retained the right to buy back WMG’s 50% equity stake in the Bad Boy label, his artists’ attempts to buy their own publishing rights—which remained with Combs—were allegedly rebuffed, including those of Ma$e. 

Other former artists on the label say Combs’ new move is too little, too late—good intentions aside.

“I want him to give me a million cash and then I can plan the rest of my life out well,” said rapper Mark Curry on social media of the new overture from Combs, who signed him to Bad Boy in 1997. He claims he received his publishing rights back “a long time ago” but feels the artists receiving theirs now will not see the ultimate value of their worth, with their popularity having peaked decades ago.

“Ever had somebody owe you 50 dollars.. when you needed it back.. they didn’t pay you.. then by the time they do pay you.. the 50 dollars doesn’t mean the same as it did when you needed it.”

In recent years, as he saw renewed success with current Bad Boy signees Janelle Monáe and Machine Gun Kelly, Combs was reportedly offered millions to sell the Bad Boy catalog— a move often seen in the industry as predatory, granting music rights to a third party without the permission of the artists involved. Those who recently fell victim to such moves include the pop mega-star Taylor Swift, whose music rights were sold by talent manager Scott “Scooter” Braun in 2020 for an estimated $300M.

Combs, however, turned down the outside catalog deals and instead began reaching out to his former artists in 2021 to offer them a chance to own their rights. Ma$e, Faith Evans, The LOX, 112, and the Estate of the Notorious B.I.G. have reportedly signed such deals as of this month.

None of the artists involved have commented publicly on their deals since the news broke, while Combs himself has been busy promoting his first full-length music project in eight years, “The L.O.V.E. Album: Off the Grid.”

The new record, first announced in 2021, appears to feature a number of God-centered tracks and a full slate of collaborating artists. It is scheduled to be released on Friday, September 15.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

Want to support the work of BCM? You have options.

a.) click to give (fee-free) on Zeffy

b.) click to give (fee-free) on Facebook