Sean Diddy Combs Biography

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Genres: Rap/Hip Hop

Born on Nov. 4, 1969 in a Harlem housing project in New York City, Combs was raised by his cab driver father, Melvin, and his mother, Janice. But when Combs was three years old, Melvin was shot and killed in Central Park in a drug deal gone bad; he was allegedly an associate of former drug kingpin, Frank Lucas - portrayed by Denzel Washington in "American Gangster" (2007) - who claimed Combs' father was at his house a couple of times a week. Relocating with his mother and sister, Keisha, to Mount Vernon at 12 years old, the young Combs had a relatively privileged lifestyle thanks to his mother's long hours and numerous jobs - an effort she made to ensure her son would not suffer the same fate as his father. After attending St. Charles Borromeo School, a Catholic elementary school in Harlem, he went to the private all-boys school, Mount St. Michael Academy, in the Bronx before getting into prestigious Howard University in Washington, DC. But after a year, Combs decided his formal education was finished and began pursuing a career in the music business.

Combs proved a sharp businessman even in his early years, coming up with ways to make money off of the paper delivery business by taking over an older boy's route and offering him a percentage of profits. His keen business sense and unrelenting drive led him to make the most of his friendship with Mount Vernon hip-hop celebrity, Heavy D. In 1987, Combs' alliance with Heavy D landed him a meeting with Uptown Records executive Andrew Harrell, who offered the ambitious young man an intern position at his company. Impressed with the self-starter's work ethic and his closeness to the urban youth culture, Harrell began giving the eager Combs more responsibilities and artistic freedom. In 1989, Combs became the youngest executive in the industry after being named Vice President of A&R for Uptown. Harrell's faith in the young man soon paid off, as Combs' work in shaping the image and sound of artists that included Jodeci and Mary J. Blige would move millions of units and jumpstart major careers. Despite his success - or perhaps because of it - internal power struggles led to Combs getting the axe from Uptown in late 1992. But Harrell did assist Combs in forming his own company, Bad Boy Entertainment.

In 1994, Bad Boy had its first hit, Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear," turning an unknown rapper into a platinum-selling artist almost overnight. That same year, the soon-to-be legendary Notorious B.I.G. - a.k.a. Biggie Smalls - released his debut album, Ready to Die. Helped by their noted success, Bad Boy was able to negotiate a deal with Arista Records the following year by which Bad Boy would have full creative control while Arista sponsored 50 percent of the company. In 1995, Notorious B.I.G. scored his first big crossover hit, "Big Poppa," the hit video for which featured Combs flanked by women in a hot tub. Meanwhile, Combs produced the Grammy-winning album, CrazySexyCool (1994), by TLC, which went on to sell over 15 million units. But while Combs was riding high, the good times suddenly turned bad amidst the violent atmosphere of the gang-influenced hip-hop world. On the way back to his hotel from the Los Angeles-held Soul Train Music Awards on March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G. - Combs' best-selling artist and closest friend - was gunned down in a drive-by shooting and later died in a nearby hospital.

Though the loss was no doubt a great one for Combs and the Bad Boy family, he turned his grief into millions when he released the tribute song "I'll Be Missing You," a hip-hop remake of The Police hit "Every Breath You Take," featuring Wallace's widow, singer Faith Evans. The lead was taken by Combs, who poured out his heart in his lyrics and proved a capable rapper in an early acclaimed effort. While critics argued that the song borrowed too heavily from the 1983 hit song, record buyers came out in force to support the effort, keeping the song at No. 1 for 11 straight weeks. Later that year, Combs released his debut album, No Way Out (1997), which included "I'll Be Missing You" as well as his follow-up hit, "It's All About the Benjamins," which featured extensive cameos from Biggie and Lil' Kim. Criticized for relying too much on guest stars and writing and performing very little of his own material, Combs' debut and his 1999 sophomore effort Forever did play more like compilation albums than unified records.

Though B.I.G. sound-alike Shyne became a hit artist in 2000, Bad Boy failed to generate the kind of sales it previously had - even dependable Lil' Kim had disappointing returns. Late 2000 saw a turnaround when Combs' teen pop group, Dream, hit the shelves. A sweet-voiced quartet of girls really in their teens, Dream had a big hit with "He Loves Me Not" and looked set to continue their success through 2001. Though music made him millions and secured his place as a top American businessman, Combs was anxious to branch out into other ventures. In 1997 he opened Justin's, a Caribbean and soul food restaurant named after his eldest son. This New York City flagship would be followed by an Atlanta branch in 1998; the same year that he launched his fashion line Sean John and inked a development deal with Dimension Films, forming Bad Boy Films. While Bad Boy Films failed to produce anything until 2002, Combs began an acting career when he was cast in but subsequently dropped out of Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday" (1999), in a role later essayed by Jamie Foxx.

But just as he was elevating his game, Combs ran head-on into serious legal trouble following a highly publicized shooting at Club New York in 1999, where he was partying with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez and rapper Shyne. Three bystanders were wounded at 2:55 a.m. after Shyne fired shots into the crowd. Combs fled with Lopez in their Lincoln Navigator and were pulled over by police, who found a stolen 9mm automatic underneath the seat - a weapon later determined to be unassociated with the shootout. Combs, Lopez, bodyguard Anthony Jones and driver Wardel Fenderson were arrested. Lopez was soon cleared of any wrongdoing, while Combs, Jones and Fenderson were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property. Prosecutors sought a higher bail for Combs due to his "history of violence," which stemmed from his arrest for aggravated assault following his beating of Interscope Records executive Steve Stoute earlier in the year. In March 2001, Combs was acquitted of all charges, including an additional one for bribery following accusations of such from Fenderson, while the 22-year-old Shyne landed a 10-year sentence. The bad "gangsta" publicity surrounding the unfortunate event helped spell the end of the then famous union of Puff Daddy and Lopez - one of the most celebrated couples at that time - as rumors flew that Lopez was simply not willing to risk her growing mainstream stardom and be guilty by association to the then thuggish world of hip-hop.

After announcing that he was a new man and would heretofore be referred to as P. Diddy - a nickname bestowed upon him by B.I.G. - rather than Puff Daddy, Combs finally made his big screen debut as a crime lord in Jon Favreau's comedy "Made" (2001). He followed up with "Monsters Ball" (2001), in which he played a death row inmate sent off to the electric chair by a corrections officer (Billy Bob Thornton) who later falls in love with his widow (Halle Berry). In 2002, Combs stepped in as the new executive producer of the MTV reality series "Making the Band" for its second season, giving the show - which took a group of unknowns and attempted to forge a new professional singing group out of them - an increased air of legitimacy. Combs also appeared on camera as a Donald Trump-like figurehead doling out advice and tasks to the aspiring musicians. Meanwhile, he made his stage debut in the revival of the Lorraine Hansberry drama, "A Raisin in the Sun" (2004), playing Walter Lee Younger - a role originated by Sidney Poitier - to largely positive reviews.

The following year, during the media fanfare surrounding his hosting of the popular MTV Video Music Awards in Miami, Combs adopted yet another new moniker, proclaiming himself "Diddy," claiming that he had gone under so many aliases that people did not really know what to call him anymore. But he rankled a British DJ who also went by the name Diddy, which led to an out-of-court settlement and the retention of Combs' moniker, P. Diddy, in England. After a co-starring role in the straight-to-DVD sequel "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power" (2005), he executive produced the reality series, "Celebrity Cooking Showdown" (NBC, 2006), which featured nine celebrities who compete to prepare a three-course meal following training from expert chefs. The series was canceled after three episodes due to poor ratings. While serving as a producer on shows like "Run's House" (MTV, 2005-08), "If I Were King" (MTV, 2008) and "Rip the Runway" (BET, 2008), he starred in the made-for-cable adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun" (ABC, 2008), which received strong reviews from all corners and several Emmy Award nominations. Meanwhile, he executive produced and starred in "I Want to Work for Diddy" (VH1, 2008- ), a reality competition that conducted a nationwide search to discover the young man or woman who would be most worthy to become his personal assistant. After releasing albums like The Saga Continues (2001) and Press Play (2006) throughout the years, Combs was set to drop his next one, Last Train to Paris, in July 2010. In the meantime, Combs next co-starred in "Get Him to the Greek" (2010), playing an ambitious record company executive who uses an eager new intern (Jonah Hill) to escort a hard-partying, out-of-control rock star (Russell Brand) to his comeback gig.