NEW YORK – To all the critics who think their snarky words fall on deaf ears, take heart: Diddy says he not only listened to past digs at his rap talent, but the criticism helped him make his best album to date with "Press Play."
"Press Play" debuted at the top of the charts this week with approximately 170,000 CDs sold, the first time he's been at No. 1 in almost 10 years. The album boasts an all-star list of collaborations — including Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx and Nas — and features a variety of new musical sounds from Diddy. He even sings on one track.
"I would say I'm a great shower singer," he joked about his vocal abilities. "And I mean what I'm singing! ... It's true to my range, and it's just me being me."
Shower singer or not, the album has given the artist formerly known as Puffy, P. Diddy and Puff Daddy perhaps the best reviews in his much-maligned rap career.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Diddy said he took note of some of the most frequent jabs at his rapping style and worked to challenge himself as an artist.
"I didn't just talk about bling bling and how much money I had," said Diddy, via phone from Paris. "It was more about going in deeper, talking about relationships and love and all of the stages of love."
But he worked on more that just the content of his music, focusing, too, on its delivery and style.
"If you hear in the tones of my voice, (I) give you different tones instead of just being known for just the monotone thing that's not taking you anywhere emotionally," he said. "I was able to go different places emotionally, and not using a whole bunch of samples, just doing original orchestration and daring to be different."
Over the years, Diddy has become known more for his overall celebrity and his fashion forays instead of what first brought him fame — his musical side. But his Bad Boy label has had a resurgence this year with successes from Cassie, Danity Kane and Yung Joc, and, now, his own album.
Diddy said he plans to keep the focus on his music with a tour launching sometime next year, and plans to push multiple singles off this record; in any case, he wants people to continue to "Press Play" for more than just one week.
"I just went in to try and make some great music and music that will stand the test of time so the album will just keep getting stronger and more intense as time goes by, which is rare in hip hop," he said.