Sean John Combs

Sean John Combs (born November 4, 1969, aka Sean "Puffy" Combs, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy) is a record producer, entrepreneur, and rapper. He is the founder of Bad Boy Entertainment, one of the driving forces in hip hop music in the mid to late 1990s. Combs first skyrocketed to fame as a label executive, first for Uptown Records and later for his own label, signing and developing acts such as Father MC, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Craig Mack, Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, 112, Ma$e, and Carl Thomas. His own music career, and to a lesser extent, his production, has been criticized as watered-down and overly commercialized for a mainstream market, as well as an over-reliance on obvious and lengthy samples and interpolations for the majority of his hit songs.

Early years
Born in Harlem, New York City, Combs grew up in the Westchester County suburb, Mount Vernon, New York. After completing his private secondary education at Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx, Combs attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. before becoming an intern at Uptown Records. Only a few months later, Combs was an A&R executive, and helped produce Father's Day (Father MC; 1990), What's the 411? (Mary J. Blige; 1992), and Blue Funk (Heavy D & the Boyz; 1992) before being fired in 1993. Combs set up his own label, Bad Boy Records, and soon signed Craig Mack and the Notorious B.I.G..

Establishing Bad Boy
Both Mack and Biggie quickly released hit singles, followed by similarly successful LPs, particularly B.I.G.'s Ready to Die. Puff Daddy, as he was then known, began signing more acts to Bad Boy, including Faith Evans, 112 and Total, as well as producing for Lil' Kim, TLC, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, SWV, Aretha Franklin and others. Mase and The Lox soon joined Bad Boy, just as a widely publicized rivalry with the West Coast's Death Row Records. Combs and Notorious B.I.G. were allied against Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight, trading insults in songs and interviews during the mid 1990s. Shakur was murdered in 1996. Six months later, in March of 1997, the Notorious B.I.G. was also murdered. Notorious B.I.G's second album, Life After Death, was a posthumous success.

Combs' performing career
Combs rapped on record as Puff Daddy as early as Supercat's 1993 "Dolly My Baby" with The Notorious Big. Combs' performance career in the international spotlight as "Puff Daddy" began in 1997, releasing "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down", followed by "I'll Be Missing You". Both singles were successful, though "I'll Be Missing You" was written by Marvin L. Blair (a tribute to B.I.G. with guests Faith Evans and 112), and was heavily criticized for sampling The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and adding little. Combs, plus various labelmates known as the Family, released No Way Out, an LP, in 1997. The album also produced the hit singles "It's All About The Benjamins," which featured Lil Kim, The Lox and The Notorious B.I.G. and had a popular rock remix, which was worked on by Rob Zombie and the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, among others; and "Been Around The World," a song that featured Combs' labelmate, Mase, and the late Notorious B.I.G., and was probably best remembered for having sampled David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Lisa Stansfield's "All Around The World". The song's video starred many celebrities, such as Wyclef Jean, Quincy Jones, and Combs' future love interest, Jennifer Lopez. "I'll Be Missing You" won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, while No Way Out won Best Rap Album.

Combs' follow-up was 1999's failed Forever, which was a commercial failure and no more well-reviewed than No Way Out.

On April 15, 1999, Combs was accused of assaulting Steve Stoute of Interscope Records. Stoute was the manager for Nas, whose video for "Hate Me Now" featured Combs being crucified. Though Combs had willingly filmed the video scene earlier that year, he demanded that the images be removed. Stoute's refusal led to an argument and Combs' arrest for aggravated assault. This was followed by a yet more negative publicity as The Lox left Bad Boy Records, and a recording session with Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease (both of B.I.G.'s Junior M.A.F.I.A.) posse was interrupted by gunfire.

In December 1999, Combs and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, were at Club New York, a midtown Manhattan nightclub, when gunfire broke out. After a police investigation, Combs and fellow rapper Shyne were arrested for weapons violations and other charges. Combs was indicted after his driver claimed that Combs had tried to bribe him into taking the weapon after the shooting. With bribery charges added to the bill, Combs was being attacked in the tabloids on a near-daily basis. Before the trial was over, Combs found himself in court on numerous civil charges.

With a gag order in place, the highly-publicized trial began. His attorney was Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. A talent agency then sued Combs for unfair competition, as did a woman who rented an apartment owned by Combs; she claimed he refused to rid the house of vermin. Combs then launched his own lawsuit against a writer who did not follow through on an alleged agreement to help write his autobiography. Combs was soon acquitted of all charges relating to the shooting incident, followed almost immediately by a break-up with Lopez. With the media circus over, Combs changed his stage name to "P. Diddy".

Diddy in the 2000s
Combs tried to reinvent his image, but was once again in court facing assault charges from a Michigan television host, and then was arrested for driving on a suspended license in Florida. In spite of continuing legal problems, Combs decided that he was going to release a gospel album, Thank You, but it was never released. After yet more legal problems stemming from an accusation of reckless driving by the Miami police, Combs began working with a series of unusual (for him) artists. A collaboration with David Bowie appeared on the soundtrack to Training Day, while Combs began working with Britney Spears and *NSYNC.

This was followed by a serious set-back for Bad Boy Records when Arista Records stopped distributing Bad Boy releases. Faith Evans left the label, and 112 almost did, though Combs filed a restraining order to keep them aboard. As a result, Bad Boy Records was formed as an independent record company. He also signed the female pop group Dream onto Bad Boy Records in 2000.

Later in 2002, he made his own reality show on MTV called Making the Band 2, the sequel to the first Making the Band. In it, contestants compete to be in a new group on Bad Boy Records. The six finalists have to come up with their name, CD and video (see Da Band). The group was maligned by comics and critics, including a well known skit that appeared on Chappelle's Show.

In 2003, Combs ran in the New York City Marathon and raised $2,000,000 for the educational system for the children of New York. He appeared on the March 10, 2004 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the marathon.

On August 16, 2005, Combs appeared on the Today Show and announced that he was altering his stage name yet again, dropping the "P." and referring to himself simply as "Diddy," saying that "the P was getting between me and my fans." He later hosted the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards.

Other work
Combs is one of the most entrepreneurially-minded men in the American music industry. In the year 2002, he featured at #12 on Fortune magazine's "40 Richest People Under 40" list. His urban clothing line, Sean John, has been nominated for the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award for Menswear Designer of the Year, every year since 2000. However, his clothes line also brought him criticism when it was revealed that its Honduras-based factories violated Honduran labor laws. He also owns the restaurant chain Justin's (named after his son). In common with many in his industry, he also bears the mantle of "actor-rapper"; he has appeared as a parody of a drug dealer in Made, he played the role of Walter Lee Younger in the critically acclaimed 2004 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and starred with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in the film Monster's Ball. As of 2005, Combs had moved his Bad Boy Records to the Warner Music Group. Conflict still existed between Diddy and former Warners CEOs Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles (both formerly of Def Jam), but they arranged for his imprint to be a part of the company.


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