1997 marked the rise of the hip-hop mogul, with Puff Daddy (Sean Combs), Master P and Jay-Z not just rapping, but building empires. "It's All About The Benjamins" perfectly encapsulated their ethos: get that cash.
A "benjamin" is a $100 bill (because Benjamin Franklin is on it), and Puff Daddy collected lots of them. Through his company Bad Boy Entertainment, Combs ran his own record label and in 1998 started his own clothing company, Sean John. The rap game wasn't a cash grab for Combs: it was a means of creating institutional wealth.
The first version of this song was released in 1996 on various mixtapes and on a Bad Boy Records sampler album. This early version featured Sheek Louch and Jadakiss from The Lox, a group signed to Bad Boy. A remix with additional verses by The Notorious B.I.G. and Lil' Kim (also Bad Boy artists) was released on Puff Daddy's 1997 album No Way Out and released as a single (Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed before the song was recorded; his verse came from archives). This version was released as a single with a video directed by Paul Hunter.
Later in 1997, a "Rock Remix" was released with additional vocals by Fuzzbubble, Rob Zombie and Tommy Stinson, with Dave Grohl adding drums, bass and guitar. This one also got a video, this time directed by Spike Jonze.
The song went to #2 on the Hot 100 on January 3, 1998 - sales of the remixes were apparently combined in Billboard's calculations for chart position.
The track is built around a guitar lick sampled from "I Did It for Love," a 1977 song by the female trio Love Unlimited.
Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie produced this song and is one of the credited writers along with the rappers who appear on it.
This was the first big rap hit with whispered vocals. Instead of blasting the title in the chorus, the "all about the Benjamins" line is breathy and quiet, like someone telling a secret.
This song popularized the phrase "all about the Benjamins," which has shown up in the lyrics to many other songs over the years, often in reference to Puff Daddy. In 2002, a movie starring Ice Cube called All About The Benjamins was released in theaters.
In the 2005 Saturday Night Live skit "Lazy Sunday,"
where two wannabes of modest means (Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell) act like high-rolling rappers, it's "all about the Hamiltons, baby," as they drop $10 bills at a movie theater.
For non-Americans, this song was a bit mystifying, as most had no idea who these "Benjamins" were. Puffy may have missed an opportunity by not releasing a remix in the UK called "All About The Elizabeths."
On February 10, 2019, Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar made news by Tweeting
, "It's all about the Benjamins baby" in reference to United States support for Israel.
Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2