He was originally known as Puff Daddy and then as P. Diddy (Puff and Puffy being often used as a nickname, but never as recording names). In August 2005, he changed his stage name to "Diddy". He continues to use the name P. Diddy in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the latter after a legal battle with another artist, Richard "Diddy" Dearlove. In June 2008 Combs' representative denied rumors of another name change. However, in 2010 it was reported that Diddy has been referring to himself as "Ciroc Obama".
His business interests under the umbrella of Bad Boy Entertainment Worldwide include Bad Boy Records; the clothing lines Sean John; Sean by Sean Combs, a movie production company; and two restaurants. He has taken the roles of recording executive, performer, producer of MTV's Making the Band, writer, arranger, clothing designer, and Broadway actor.
Combs is one of the richest hip-hop performers, having a net worth estimated at US $346 million in 2006. He was portrayed by Derek Luke in the biopic of The Notorious B.I.G. called Notorious.
Combs was born in the public housing projects of the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, the son of Janice and Melvin Combs. He grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. When Combs was a child, his father, aged 33, an associate of Frank Lucas the New York drug lord, was shot dead in his car at a Manhattan park after attending a party. Lucas and rival gangster Nicky Barnes both publicly state that they were close to Melvin.
Combs played football at the Roman Catholic Mount Saint Michael Academy. In 1986, his team won a division title and he graduated in 1987. He is a Christian.
Combs says he was given the nickname "Puff" as a child because he would "huff and puff" when he was angry, and "Daddy" was another version of "player."
Combs attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where he showed a penchant for marketing and gained a reputation as a party promoter. He eventually became an intern at New York's Uptown Records. For some time he would travel back and forth between Washington and New York, juggling his classes and his internship, before eventually dropping out of Howard when he became a top executive at Uptown. He was instrumental in developing Jodeci and signing and producing Mary J. Blige.
In 1991 Combs promoted a concert, headlined by Heavy D. and held at the City College of New York gymnasium, following an AIDS charity basketball game. The event was overcrowded since it was oversold to almost twice capacity, while thousands without tickets were outside. To keep them out Combs' people shut the only door to a stairwell and put a table behind it, though the crowd jammed inside was pounding on the door and pleading for help. When the crowd outside broke several glass doors in an attempt to get in a stampede ensued inside the gymnasium in which nine people died. In a 1999 ruling, a Court of Claims judge found Puff Daddy and Heavy D. responsible for 50 percent of the incident. City College bore the rest of the responsibility in part for abandoning security responsibility to Puff Daddy though they knew the event was oversold.
In 1992 Combs entered into an agreement with Hartford, Connecticut disc jockey JC "Big Balla" Sledge to start a label in Hartford for the city's untapped talent, named Hip Hart Beat Records. The pair had creative differences over the usage of talent and eventually split. In a statement to Rolling Stone Magazine, JC said, "Sean and I remain friends, just not as close as we once were. Our split where it relates to business was because we saw two totally different avenues. I wanted to drive left and go the way of Def Jam and its mainstay of artists and Puffy [Puff Daddy] wanted to drive right, business as usual. The split was amicable. Hip Hart Beat Records will one day become a reality. We are close now."
Establishing Bad Boy Records
In 1993, after being fired from Uptown, Combs established Bad Boy Records, taking then-newcomer The Notorious B.I.G. with him. Both The Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack quickly released hit singles, followed by similarly successful LPs, particularly The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die. Combs began signing more acts to Bad Boy, including Carl Thomas, Faith Evans, Father MC, 112 and Total, as well as producing for Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Lil' Kim, TLC, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, SWV, Aretha Franklin, and others, and forming The Hitmen, an in-house production team.
Mase and D-Block (then known as "The L.O.X.") joined Bad Boy just as a widely publicized rivalry with the West Coast's Death Row Records was beginning. Combs and The Notorious B.I.G. were criticized and parodied by Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight in songs and interviews during the mid-1990s. During 1994–1995, he also helped produce songs for TLC's CrazySexyCool, which was the decade's best-selling R&B album. Songs he helped produced include "If I Was Your Girlfriend" and "Can I Get A Witness".
In 1997 Combs recorded his first commercial vocal as a rapper under the name "Puff Daddy." His debut single, "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. His debut album, No Way Out was a #1 album and won the 1998 Grammy Award for best rap album. His second single, "I'll Be Missing You", in memory of The Notorious B.I.G., debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. He collaborated with Jimmy Page on the song "Come with Me" for the Godzilla film. The track, approved by Page, sampled the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir". Producer Tom Morello supplied live guitar parts, playing bass on the song. Combs and Page filmed a video for "Come with Me", which reached #2 in the UK.
By the late 1990s he was receiving criticism for watering down and overly commercializing hip-hop and overusing guest appearances by other artists, samples and interpolations of past hits in his own hit songs. The Onion parodied this phenomenon in a 1997 article called "New rap song samples "Billie Jean" in its entirety, adds nothing."
Club New York
In December 1999 Combs was accused of assaulting Steve Stoute of Interscope Records. Stoute was the manager for Nas. Combs had filmed a video scene earlier that year for "Hate Me Now" that featured Nas being crucified but demanded that the images be removed. Stoute's refusal led to an argument and Puff Daddy's arrest for aggravated assault. This was followed by yet more negative publicity as The Lox left Bad Boy Records and a recording session with Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease, both of The Notorious B.I.G.'s Junior M.A.F.I.A. posse, was interrupted by gunfire.
On December 27, 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. The New York County District Attorney's Office, led by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, indicted Combs after his driver, Wardel Fenderson, claimed that Combs had tried to bribe him into taking the weapon after the shooting.
With a gag order in place, the highly-publicized trial began. His attorneys were Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. and Benjamin Brafman. After the trial was over, Combs was found not guilty on all charges; Shyne was convicted on the same charges and sentenced to ten years in prison. Combs and Lopez split shortly after. A lawsuit filed by Combs's driver, Fenderson, who said he suffered emotional damage after the club shooting, was settled in February 2004. Lawyers for both sides, having agreed to keep the settlement terms secret, would say only that the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.
In 2001, after his acquittal on gun possession and bribery charges, Combs changed his stage name from "Puff Daddy" to "P. Diddy". He later appeared as a drug dealer in the film Made and starred with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball. He tried to reinvent his image, but soon faced assault charges by a Michigan television host, Dr. Roger Mills, and then was arrested for driving on a suspended license in Florida. A gospel album, Thank You, was never released. After 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 and he also worked with Britney Spears and 'N Sync. He signed California-based pop girl group Dream to his record label. He was also an opening act for 'N Sync on their Spring 2002 Celebrity Tour.
Later in 2002, he made his own reality show on MTV called Making the Band 2, a sequel to the first Making the Band, in which contestants competed to be in a new group on Bad Boy Records. Six finalists were to come up with their name, CD and video (see Da Band). The group, maligned by comics and critics and drawing a skit on Chappelle's Show, was dissolved by Combs at the end of the series.
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. On March 10, 2004, he appeared in The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the marathon, which he finished in four hours and eighteen minutes.
In 2004, Combs headed the campaign "Vote or Die" for the 2004 Presidential Election. The "Vote or Die" slogan was mocked by both The Daily Show and South Park as being too simplistic and encouraging young people to vote without knowing the issues. In a South Park episode entitled "Douche and Turd", Combs and his friends were depicted chasing Stan Marsh, one of the main characters, around with weapons, literally threatening to kill him if he wouldn't vote in his school election.
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." However this upset Richard "Diddy" Dearlove, a London based musical artist & DJ, who in November 2005 sought an injunction of the Royal Courts of Justice, London but accepted an out-of-court settlement of £110,000. As a result, Combs no longer uses the name Diddy in the UK, where he is still known as P. Diddy.
Combs starred in the 2005 Carlito's Way: Rise to Power, played Walter Lee Younger in the critically-acclaimed 2004 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun and the television adaptation which was aired in February 2008. In the same year Combs sold his record company to the Warner Music Group. Tensions still existed between him and former Warner's CEOs Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles (both formerly of Def Jam) but they arranged for his imprint to be a part of the company. In an interview with AndPOP Combs said that he was developing a line of men's suits. He later hosted the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2005 by Time magazine. He even earned a mention in the world of country music: The narrator of "Play Something Country" by Brooks & Dunn and Sean Okundaye says he "didn't come to hear P Diddy", which he rhymes with "something bumpin' from the city."
Combs released his first album in 4 years, Press Play, on October 17, 2006 on the Bad Boy Records label with guest appearances from Christina Aguilera, Keyshia Cole, Mario Winans (signed to his label 'Bad Boy Records'), Nas, Will.i.am (of Black Eyed Peas), Mary J. Blige, Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls), Jamie Foxx, Fergie, Big Boi (of Outkast), Ciara, Twista, Just Blaze, Pharrell, Brandy. The album reached number one on its first week in the charts.
It was reported that Combs would be singing on all the tracks of this album but he did not sing at all on the album's first single, "Come To Me" (featuring Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls), but rather did his traditional rapping. He did sing on the third single, "Last Night" (featuring Keyshia Cole). "Tell Me" (featuring Christina Aguilera) was released as the second single. He was asking fans on his MySpace page to help him choose the fourth single, which was "Through the Pain (She Told Me)" (featuring Mario Winans).
In October 2007, he was sued by hip-hop promoter James Waldon for allegedly unleashing three violent bodyguards on him in a New York nightclub. In March 2008, a source for the LA Times claimed that The Notorious B.I.G. and Combs orchestrated the '94 robbery and assassination attempt on Tupac; the LA Times later retracted the story, saying it believed the FBI reports were fabricated.
August 2008 saw Combs venture into reality television with the premiere of his VH1 series I Want to Work for Diddy. After the second season finale of Making the Band 4, Combs confirmed that he will be heading back into the studio to record his next album. He posted a Myspace Bulletin on February 19, 2009 that his next album is set to release in November 2009.
Combs has stated that he would like to work with Leona Lewis on his new album. In an interview with The Daily Mail he said: "I had Christina Aguilera on my last album, but its all about Leona Lewis on my next."
Under his real name of Sean Combs, he starred in two episodes of Season 7 of CSI: Miami; 'Presumed Guilty' and 'Sink or Swim' in the role of the lawyer Derek Powell.
In 2002, he was featured on Fortune magazine's "40 Richest People Under 40" list and was placed number one in the list of the top ten richest people in hip-hop. He has donated undisclosed amounts to the Patricia Kirby Foundation, an organization that battles teenage bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders. In 2006 his estimated worth was US $346 million, making him one of the richest people in the hip hop entertainment business.
In 1998, Combs started a clothing line, Sean John. It was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2000, and won in 2004.
The clothing line became controversial in 2003 when it was discovered that factories producing the clothing in Honduras were violating Honduran labor law. Among the accusations put forth were that workers were subjected to body searches and paid sweatshop wages. Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, who first exposed the factory, is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Sean Puff Daddy obviously has a lot of clout, he can literally do a lot overnight to help these workers."
Combs responded that there would be a "zero tolerance" investigation at his company, Sean John. He stated to a group of reporters "I'm as pro-worker as they get." On February 14, 2004, Kernaghann announced on Pacifia station that Combs had made some "unprecedented" changes at factories including adding air conditioning and water purification systems, and allowing a union to form.
In late 2006, MSNBC reported, "Macy's has pulled from its shelves and its Web site two styles of Sean John hooded jackets, originally advertised as featuring faux fur, after an investigation by the nation's largest animal protection organization concluded that the garments were actually made from an animal called a 'raccoon dog'". Combs said he had been unaware of the material, but as soon as he knew about it, he had his clothing line stop using the material. In 2008 he appeared in a Macy's commercial.
In November 2008, Combs launched his latest men's perfume under the Sean John brand called "I Am King" dedicated to Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King. In his blog he stated: "There is a black president and it's time for there to be a black Bond". In November 2008, he unveiled a new Times Square billboard for the "I Am King" line to replace his iconic Sean John ad. The giant billboard is currently the largest print ad in Times Square. Model Bar Refaeli was chosen to be the face of the fragrance.
In addition to his clothing line, Combs owns an upscale restaurant chain called Justin's, named after his son. The current restaurant is in Atlanta; the original New York location closed in September 2007. He is the designer of the green Dallas Mavericks alternate jersey.
On September 18, 2007, Combs teamed up with 50 Cent and Jay-Z for the "Forbes I Get Money Billion Dollar Remix." He also made appearances with Jay-Z on his American Gangster concert tour in 2007.
As of October 2007, Combs has inked a multi-year deal, in which he'll help develop the Ciroc brand, one of Diageo PLC's super-premium Vodka lines, for a 50–50 share in the profits. The agreement is the latest in which a celebrity is going beyond the typical role of endorser to share in a brand's rise and fall. Diageo said the agreement could be worth more than $100 million for Combs and his company, Sean Combs Enterprises, over the course of the deal, depending on how well the brand performs. Since then, he has launched multiple ventures for Ciroc, many of which were featured during the 2008 presidential election.
Combs acquired the Enyce clothing line from Liz Claiborne for $20 million on October 21, 2008. Combs also starred in a film that was shown on ABC called A Raisin in the Sun.
He has helped Joaquin Phoenix with production on his first and yet unreleased rap album.
After a prolific Twitter campaign by comedian Chris Gethard, Combs is set to make an appearance at the comedian's live show in January 2010 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City. Gethard originally campaigned for Al Roker to appear, though he politely declined.
In February 2010, Combs anounced on CNN to Wolf Blitzer, that he plans to open a business school in New York. He announced that he wanted a school, "that’s known for building leaders."