Perhaps the first hugely successful music industry executive
to successfully jump midstream into an even more hugely successful career as an
artist, Sean "Puffy" Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, rose in 1997 to become the rap
world's preeminent MC with the same precision and skill he brought to his Bad
Boy Entertainment behind the scenes. Though shadowed by criticism that he built
a musical house of cards supported only by well-chosen samples, Diddy turned the
tragedy of friend and colleague the Notorious B.I.G.'s death into a
chart-topping single that captivated a nation.
Born in Harlem in 1971, Diddy grew up not on those mean
streets but in the New York suburb of Mt. Vernon while attending a Catholic,
boys-only high school in the Bronx. While majoring in business administration at
Howard University, he put his salesmanship to work, holding hip-hop dance
parties every week and running a shuttle bus service for fellow students
traveling back and forth from the airport for visits home (which means that if
he hadn't kept pursuing the hip-hop angle, Diddy might today known as the king
of airport shuttling, Sean "Huffy" Combs).
Diddy dropped out of college when he turned his internship at
Uptown Records into a job as talent director, helping guide the careers of Mary
J. Blige and Jodeci. With his own Bad Boy Entertainment, Combs swiftly became
one of the industry's hottest producers, turning out hits for such artists as
Mariah Carey,New Edition, Method Man, Babyface, TLC, Boyz II Men, SWV,Aretha
Franklin, and his most frequent collaborator, Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie
The murder of Smalls in early 1997 inspired Diddy's debut
single as a lead rapper (he had made guest appearances on B.I.G.'s and others'
albums), "I'll Be Missing You," which featured Puffy rapping over the basic
track of the Police's "Every Breath You Take," with additional vocals by Faith
Evans and 112. The tribute to the slain Smalls topped the Billboard
singles chart for six weeks and catapulted Diddy's No Way Out album to
platinum status. Though critics carped that the cut was little more than an
overlong sample, even Diddy has gone on record as admitting that his skills lie
less in rapping than in creating an overall sound. "I'm not an MC," he's said.
"I'm a vibe-giver."
In a very short sprint, Diddy has made it to the top of the
hip-hop heap, but only time will tell if he can achieve staying power in a genre
whose throne has never been held for very long by any producer or artist (Dr.
Dre, are you still out there?). But for now, there is no more popular a hip-hop
star than Sean "Puffy" Combs. ~Written by Scott Chernoff
Contact Grabow for more information or to book Diddy for your
next corporate or private event.