Review The Artist (12)
IN just a few years, Sean "Puffy" Combs has transformed himself from a streetwise party promoter and record company intern into one of the most commercially successful producer-entrepreneurs in music history. Puffy, or "Puff Daddy," as he is alternately known, was barely into his twenties when he first started exercising his Midas touch by producing multi-platinum albums for such artists as Jodeci and Mary J. Blige; in short order, he became vice president of Uptown Records, and not much later, he founded his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment.
While at Uptown, Puffy established the careers of rappers Craig Mack and Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G. And in 1997 alone, he masterminded an astonishing three No. 1 records. But as successful and influential as he's grown, Combs' life has been plagued by its fair share of controversy: From his ongoing feud with his West Coast counterpart, Death Row Records founder Suge Knight, to the slaying of his friend Notorious B.I.G., to the contempt he has elicited from those within the hip-hop underground, Puffy has frequently been the subject of debate. What is less open to debate is that Puffy Combs is indeed the man of the moment.
Sean Combs was born in 1970 in Harlem, the first of Melvin and Janice Combs' two children. Janice was an aspiring model, while Melvin was a notorious street hustler whose lifestyle caught up with him when he was shot dead in Central Park—Sean was only three at the time. For the next ten years, the family continued to live in Harlem, where Sean witnessed firsthand the prime years of hip-hop's explosive evolution. From block parties to b-boy battles in the park, the seeds of his dream of becoming an entertainer were being sown.
When he was twelve, his mother relocated the family to the suburbs of Mount Vernon, New York, where Sean attended an all-male private school called Mount St. Michael's Academy. Legend has it that he earned his nickname at the school: as a member of the football team, he apparently "puffed" out his chest to make himself look stronger than he actually was—hence the name Puffy.
In 1988, Puffy entered Howard University, where his entrepreneurial drive immediately kicked into high gear. He started out promoting house parties and campus concerts; he also reportedly nurtured a lucrative side business selling term papers and old exams. Two years at Howard were enough for Puffy to realize that it was time to move on to something bigger and better. He dropped out, but quickly succeeded in convincing Andre Harrell, the head of Uptown Records in New York, to give him an internship. Harrell was himself an aspiring musician—he was the Mr. Jeckyll half of the mid-eighties rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde—and he saw in Puffy the same burning desire to get ahead that he had when he was a young man.
Uptown's talent roster was mostly composed of young, unproven R&B singers, in addition to rappers like Heavy D. The also unproven Puffy's youthful enthusiasm thus seemed the perfect fit for Uptown, and it wasn't long before he had struck up a father-son bond with Harrell. In fact, Harrell was so fond of Puffy that he gave him room and board, in addition to a small intern's salary. In time, Puffy's promotional skills had eclipsed whole Uptown departments, and his contributions to hit singles by groups like Jodeci made him even more invaluable to the company. Within a year, Harrell had crowned his intern Vice President of Promotion.
On December 28 of that same year, 1991, Puffy had his first bitter taste of tragedy. A charity celebrity basketball game he organized at New York's City College came to a violent and untimely conclusion when the overcrowded and impatient audience broke into a stampede. Nine people died in the melee, and Puffy's poor organization and failure to provide a security force were cited by authorities as the causes of the incident. Those close to Puffy said that he was devastated, and that it was then that he learned how to demonstrate resilience in the face of tragedy—a trait he would come to rely on heavily in the future.
The fallout from the event didn't keep Puffy down for long. He produced multi-platinum albums for Jodeci and for soul-sensation Mary J. Blige, whose debut album, What's the 411? is now regarded as the seminal example of hip-hop/R&B fusion. The success of those efforts prompted Puffy to launch his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The first artist he wanted to sign was a Brooklyn rapper by the name of Biggie Smalls, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, but who performed under the moniker the Notorious B.I.G. He had been passed a tape of B.I.G.'s music by an editor at The Source magazine who felt that Puffy could alchemize the rapper's talent. Indeed, he was captivated by B.I.G.'s vivid lyricism and New York sound.
The Notorious B.I.G. was the only child of a single mom, and he was also a street hustler. In order to convince him to abandon the highly lucrative dope-dealing game and take up rapping full-time, Puffy needed to hook B.I.G. up with enough money to keep him interested. As the late rapper himself said in any number of interviews, all the money to be gained in dealing drugs was hard to pass up for anything. Along with signing him to his roster and giving him a healthy advance, Puffy delivered opportunities for the artist to command instant recognition: he set him up to do a track for the Who's the Man soundtrack, as well as to collaborate on a song with Mary J. Blige.
Puffy had complete confidence in his own production talents and business acumen. So confident was he, in fact, that he was thought to be extremely arrogant by many people, including his onetime mentor, Harrell, who sensed that the Uptown castle was not big enough for two kings. In 1993—a year that would prove to be a whirlwind for Puffy—Harrell fired his protégé. Puffy has since admitted in several interviews that his being fired was a much-needed wake-up call. The birth of his first child, Justin, provided him with even more impetus to mature.
His next power move would prove to be his greatest to date. He negotiated a $15 million deal to relocate Bad Boy Entertainment to Arista Records. Puffy was given complete creative control and full support by the major label; in return, he more than earned his keep by producing several No. 1 hits with the Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack. With his involvement in his artists' videos, and on their songs and remixes, Puffy's profile grew ever higher—it seemed he was getting more and more successful with each passing month.
While Puffy and B.I.G. were reaping the benefits of their work, so too were Suge Knight and his Death Row Records roster, which included such artists as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Initially, Puffy and Knight were friends. After all, they had much in common: both were young black men running successful start-up record companies.
But tensions between the East and West Coast rap artists were mounting, and when Shakur was wounded by a gunshot in the lobby of a Times Square recording studio in November of 1994, he blamed the attack on Puffy and B.I.G., who were, coincidentally, in the building at the same time. Months later, in August of 1995, Knight took a pointed shot at Puffy at the Source Awards by saying, "If you don't want the owner of your label on your album or in your video or on your tour, come sign with Death Row." The following month, at a birthday party thrown for producer Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta, a close friend of Knight's was gunned down, and Knight openly blamed Puffy's entourage for the slaying.
Meanwhile, rumors were running rampant that Tupac was bedding B.I.G.'s wife, singer Faith Evans, and that Suge Knight was moving in on Puffy's (now ex) wife, Misa Hylton. Those rumors were substantiated by the Tupac song "Hit 'Em Up," in which he tells B.I.G. straight out: "You claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife." In March of 1996, the first face-to-face confrontation between B.I.G. and Tupac since the Times Square incident two years before took place at the Soul Train Awards in Los Angeles—and it was even uglier. A standoff in the parking lot between Tupac's entourage and the Bad Boy entourage ended in a stare-down, with guns drawn on both sides. Ultimately, no violence erupted, but it was clear that the rift between the two contingents was moving dangerously close to exacting dire consequences.
Unfortunately, that inevitable point came on September 7, 1996, when Tupac was gunned down in Las Vegas. The rumor on the street was that Puffy and B.I.G. had something to do with the drive-by shooting, but most people knew better. Puffy never was a thug, nor did he even pretend to be one. Against the sobering backdrop of Tupac's death, B.I.G. put the finishing touches on his double-LP, Life After Death, while Puffy made his own move as a nascent vocalist by releasing the single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," on which he collaborated with newfound rapper Mase.
The first single from Life After Death, "Hypnotize," infected New York with its buoyant beat and rhythms upon its release, and it soon reached No. 1 status. It seemed as if nothing but success lay ahead. But in March of 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down—at the Soul Train Awards, ironically. A helpless Puffy could do nothing but stand by and watch as his friend died.
Curiously, in the aftermath of B.I.G.'s death, Sean "Puffy" Combs' popularity has grown bigger than ever. Shortly after the tragic shooting, he released a tribute single to his departed friend, "I'll Be Missing You," which features vocal group 112 and B.I.G.'s wife, Faith Evans. The song borrows the melody and hook from the Police's 1983 chart-topper "Every Breath You Take," and like its source, "I'll Be Missing You" instantly reached No. 1. "Mo Money, Mo Problems," a single off B.I.G.'s posthumously released album that features Puffy and Mase, also vaulted to No. 1. Puffy has since lent his production talents to a host of other artists, including KRS-One, Mariah Carey, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Brian McKnight, SWV, and Boyz II Men, to name but a few.
Yet controversy continues to dog Puffy's prosperity. Many people openly question his role in B.I.G.'s death, finding it unseemly that Puffy has grown even more popular in the wake of his friend's slaying. The hip-hop underground hasn't thrown wide its arms to Puffy, either. His reliance on obvious samples—he incorporated Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" on "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," the Police track on "I'll Be Missing You," and David Bowie's "Let's Dance" on his upcoming single "Been Around the World"—grates on the sensibilities of hip-hop DJs and producers who pride themselves on their creativity. But Puffy diagnoses this lack of popularity differently: as he said in a recent interview, "When you're on top, everybody wants to take shots at you."
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P.daddy,is the best rapper in the world for me. | Reviewer: Komboh .sillah.bangura | 10/13/11
I want to be a friend of you,becouse i love too much i want you to give me you email address and your phone number and your facebook address,i really need your help an send them in to my email.kombohsillahbangura@.com this is my address may good bless you.
like your style | Reviewer: josiah headley | 3/5/10
yea diddy like your stlye like the way you handdle your buisness as we have many in common one day we will get a chance to meet beacause i am about to become very popular and sucessfull just like you i am black and young and face simalar presure like you but we will meet "word".
diddy,... | Reviewer: Dalesa Davis | 2/25/10
I personally think that diddy is the ish.. and i truely believe that the same person who shot pac also shot biggie and i know that was not diddy.. he loved biggie too much... but anywaysss i lovvvveeeee you diddy.
hello | Reviewer: cheyenne | 8/6/07
hello i just wanted to say that i think yur hot and even know most people say this that there yur number 1 fan cause i am i luv ya song bump bump bump with b2k thats a heaps gd song!!
i like u and i just wanted to say that yur very gd at hip hopping lol holla back peace out!!
luv ya!! from yur number 1 fan cheyenne
DEAR PUFF ITS YOURBEST FRIEND RAPTERESTE | Reviewer: RAPTERESTE | 7/14/07
hey puff its raptereste da king of rap and reggeton i just wana tell u i love u and i wana rap with u and thanku for always being my friend and always defending me hum also tell 50 and dre and em and fab nelly ush luda jd snooop bowow dmx lilscrappy i love em im with babyrasta illegalliferecords anyways i was in newyork but i didnt see u guys but always remember youre allin my heart oh and its ok that u all steal from me because i let u and i love u and we all love money and it makes me feel good that i made all of us rich so ha ha show me some love alwaysraptereste
P DIDDY is the best | Reviewer: monica | 7/13/07
i hope i will see him someday because is one of my dream.for my opinion he is the best in hip hop music.who will see this they'll say 'it's true'.
Diddy Old Friend | Reviewer: Rukahs | 6/7/07
I see u change your name, but I'll always call u Puffy. I hope u know i didn't forget what happen on !(($. My birthday is on the 16th, and I'm about 2 be 36. Though i was dead ha guess again real niggaz don't die. I'm still a BBK. And Puff be easy.
PUFFY IN MY BEST ARTIST | Reviewer: Aguh | 4/30/07
He is my best artist.I dont know,i will die on the day i see him and greet.
i want more from ya | Reviewer: yassir arafat | 4/7/07
i raelly like the song you collaborated with Nelly and Murphy Lee entitled shake ya tail feather.i want you to continue with your collaboration to bring out more music because i like all of you and y'all voices.i would also like you to visit Ghana one day because you alot of fans in ghana here.Arafat from Kumasi,Ghana.
About Diddy. | Reviewer: Ehis Frederick | 3/18/07
This Frederick from Nigeria, Africa.
You have really marked a difference by doing your thing your way which is really rocking and that you are a god of your generation.
Keep doing it your way.........
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