At a 2001 fashion show for Sean "Puffy" Combs's top-selling label Sean John in the midst of his much-publicised trial for gun possession and bribery Puffy read the following excerpt from a Maya Angelou poem. "You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt but still like dust I'll rise." And he has, time and time again.
Sean Combs was born on November 4, 1969, in Harlem, New York. His father Melvin was murdered before Sean's fourth birthday and Puffy's mother Janice moved the family to Mount Vernon in upstate New York, working three jobs to send her two children to private Catholic schools. An altar boy at Mount St Michael Academy, Sean sang in the church choir and performed in the school's theatre productions. "He liked that applause and being in the spotlight," says Janice. Some things never change.
As a freshman at Washington DC's Howard University, Puffy was an instant celebrity on campus. His parties were legendary and he used his connections to land an internship at Uptown Records, leaving DC behind before completing his degree. In a remarkably short time he became an influential executive, producing artists such as Grammy winner Mary J Blige.
He left Uptown, however or was fired, depending on the reports and started his own record label, Bad Boy Entertainment. In 1996 he hooked up with Arista Records, and for a reported $6 million aligned his fledgling firm with the recording giant. At this point Puffy was behind the scenes, fiddling with knobs in the studio and planning ingenious marketing campaigns to break new artists. All that would change in 1997.
Following the death of his confidante, the rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, Puffy recorded I'll Be Missing You,
a tribute to his late friend featuring a sample of the Police's Every Breath You Take.
The single was wildly popular, pushing sales of the album No Way Out
to over seven million copies and making Puff Daddy a celebrity rapper in his own right.
Just a few years on Bad Boy entertainment was grossing upwards of $100 million a year. "Puffy's work ethic is relentless," says Ron Gillyard, a music executive and one-time Vice President at Bad Boy. "I would be falling asleep at 3am and he would still be in the studio mixing somebody's vocals. To understand Puffy, my advice is forget the car, forget the house watch him work."
But in 1999 Puffy's notorious opulence took centre stage. He launched a clothing line and became known for hanging out in the Hamptons a Long Island summer playground for the fabulously wealthy and displaying his $400 million fortune at every chance. Suddenly the man who built an empire out of bridging the gap between street credibility and pop had lost his urban base. When his 1999 album Forever
failed to debut at number one, the New York Post
ran this headline: "Puff, The Magic's Draggin'".
Puffy was still in the news, but now for his extra-curricular activities. In 2001 he faced up to 15 years behind bars for charges stemming from a December 27, 1999, shootout at Manhattan's Club New York. Then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez
was never asked to testify, and he was later cleared of all charges in a much-publicised trial.
Following the verdict Puffy announced changes to his personal life; namely making his family a top priority. That family includes his mum Janice, his two sons Justin and Christian from ex-wife Misa Hylton and ex-girlfriend Kim Porter, respectively and his stepson Quincy from another relationship. However, he shows no sign of slowing down. P Diddy, as he's sometimes called, has a spiritual album in the works and other merchandising plans ranging from a women's wear collection, an arena tour, and a new restaurant. In 2002 he celebrated his 33rd birthday in regal style, at a three-day party in Morocco, with the country's progressive young ruler, King Mohammed VI, alledgedly picking up the tab for the festivities
It seems the bad boy, who as a 12-year-old subcontracted the work on his newspaper round to three other kids, is intent on longevity, whether as Puff Daddy, Puffy, P Diddy or, as he announced in 2005, just plain Diddy. "That's the way America is," he has said of entertainment's changing landscape. "At the end of the day we'll just see who's still here."
Luckily for Diddy, former girlfriend Kim was still there. The couple reunited in 2003 and in December 2006 celebrated the arrival of twin girls, D'Lila Star and Jessie James.