Scandal and J. Cole are typically mutually exclusive: the guy spends most of his time hunkered down in North Carolina with his wife and two kids, dressed like he’s ready to join a pick-up game at a moment’s notice. But back in 2013 when he was a little more sociable, reveling in the fruits of being a popular rapper in his late 20s and attending large functions with other celebrities, there was one incident that quickly became infamous. It involved an altercation with the one and only Puff Daddy, the gregarious veteran who spent much of the early 2010s reminding everyone that he was born of the ‘90s era, when rappers actually put hands on each other.
While the incident spawned intrigue, it never ballooned into any real beef: in a tweet that’s still up, Puffy made a rare show of directly addressing and downplaying it. Now, eight years later, Cole has cheekily referenced the incident on his new album, allowing fans who remember that time well to reflect and laugh while hipping newer listeners to the story. On “Let Go My Hand,” Cole raps: “My last scrap was with Puff Daddy, who would’ve thought it?/I bought that nigga album in seventh grade and played it so much/You would’ve thought my favorite rapper was Puff/ Back then I ain’t know shit, now I know too much.” The song, which features Cole musing on the lessons he’ll teach to his son, closes with Diddy delivering an outro prayer asking God to guide all fathers of men. Clearly, things are all good between the two and likely always were—J. Cole even has writing credits on the Diddy Last Train to Paris album.
So what happened that night back in 2013? As the story goes, at a MTV VMAs after-party, Diddy found himself back in ‘90s mode when he happened upon Kendrick Lamar, who had just dropped his thunderous “Control” verse—the one where he shouted out every one of his rap peers (J. Cole included) before declaring his intentions to “murder” them, and also crowned himself the King of New York, even though he’s from LA. Puffy took umbrage with this flex and reportedly tried to pour a drink on Kendrick’s head (that part has been hotly disputed, though) at which point a nearby Cole intervened, and a scuffle ensued between their crews. Cole’s right-hand-man Ibrahim Hamad disputed some of the wilder allegations then and continues to now (who knows, maybe that 2020 tweet is what inspired Cole to finally address it), but as Cole’s lyrics make clear something happened, just nothing too serious.
Puff seemed to be, as they say, wildin’ for respect around that time. One year later, he had a dust-up with Drake outside of the club LIV in Miami. The source of his frustration this time? Drake’s “0-100,” a song we think of now as one of his best loosie releases but, allegedly, a beat that originally “belonged” to Puffy, who had contracted Drake to write some verses for him. Four years later, Drake, much like Cole, addressed it on wax as a “scuffle,” with the water long under the bridge. (And while we’re here, who can forget the 2015 report that Combs had attacked his son Justin’s UCLA football coach with a kettlebell for being extra hard on Justin during practices. Kanye later memorialized this with the glorious bar “Imma bust the coach’s head open on some Diddy shit/if he ever talk to my son like an idiot” on The Life of Pablo).
These days, Puffy doesn’t have any standing beefs with any rap peers, he’s working on new music (an R&B album, reportedly!) and to underscore that he’s removing all friction from his life, has legally changed his middle name to “Love.” How nice that everyone can laugh at the times when things were less sweet.