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Combs, Sean(1969–) - Rap musician, record producer, actor, Works at Uptown Records, Chronology

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Sean J. Combs, an international music mogul and celebrity, is the founder and CEO of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, which is comprised of a variety of businesses, including recording, artistic management, music publishing, television production, film production, marketing, advertising, apparel, and restaurants. Combs’ extraordinary accomplishment as a record executive and producer have helped popularize rap as well as hip-hop music; Bad Boy Records, which dominated the music charts in the 1990s, remained in the early 2000s one of urban America’s most successful record labels. In addition to producing and recording the music of his generation, Combs popularized the Sean John clothing line, which reflects his ability to appeal to both hip-hop culture and mainstream society.

Combs was born on November 4, 1969 in Harlem to Melvin Combs, a board of education worker and cab driver, and his wife, Janice. When Combs was two years old, his father died. Combs believed that his father was killed in an automobile accident until at the age of fourteen, his research at the public library revealed that his father had been murdered in Central Park. In 1972, the same year as his father’s death, Combs participated in a fashion show that was staged by his mother at a day-care center. A member of the audience was a Baskin-Robbins executive and hired Combs to appear in a print ad. Combs, commenting on his early years, recalled in an April 1998 Ebony article, “I didn’t have a messed-up childhood. I had a beautiful childhood … I didn’t have a father, but I had love. My mother was always there, making sure things were great for me, and I had my grandmother [Jessie Smalls] who did the same.”

His mother worked a variety of jobs, including teaching and modeling in order to support Combs and his younger sister, Keisha. From 1970 to 1982, Combs lived in Harlem. As early as twelve years old, he would sneak out at night in order to see such rap pioneers as Run-D.M.C., KRS-One, and Grandmaster Flash. Also, when Combs was twelve years old, the family moved to a home that his mother purchased in Mount Vernon, New York. Combs, who had previously attended the Saint Charles Borromeo School in New York, attended the Mount Vernon Montessori School; an after-school program in Harlem; and the Mount Saint Michael Academy, an all-male Catholic school in the Bronx, New York.

Combs, eager to help his mother financially, was prohibited from delivering newspapers because he had not reached the minimum age requirement of thirteen. Combs made a deal with the teenager who had the local paper route and who was about to relinquish the job because he was college bound; Combs took over the route, and although he gave half of his earnings to his predecessor, the job was still quite profitable for the twelve year old. He later worked at Playland Park in Rye, New York, where he sometimes worked double shifts at a restaurant. By the time Combs graduated from Saint Michael, he had danced in music videos by Babyface, the Fine Young Cannibals, Doug E. Fresh, and Stacy Lattisaw.

Combs acquired the “Puffy” nickname during his high school years. According to some sources, Combs, who was a member of Mount Saint Michael’s football team, would puff out his chest in order to appear more threatening to the opposing team; other sources state Combs gained the nickname because of his temper.

Works at Uptown Records

After Combs graduated from high school in 1988, he attended Howard University where he majored in business administration, ran a shuttle service to the airport, promoted concerts as well as parties, and sold T-shirts and sodas. Combs attended Howard for two years.

Combs’ friend from Mount Vernon, Dwight Myers, was known in the music industry as Heavy D; and his group Heavy D and the Boys recorded for the New York-based Uptown records, a subsidiary of MCA. Heavy D recommended Combs to Andre Harrell, Uptown’s founder and president, and Combs was offered an unpaid internship at the company in 1990. Combs spent months commuting via Amtrak from Washington to New York each weekend to work at Uptown, and sometimes he sneaked on the train because he could not pay the fare. Harrell, who was Combs’ mentor, described him in A Family Affair: The Unauthorized Sean “Puffy” Combs Story as “the hardest-working intern ever.” Harrell promoted him to director of artists and repertoire (A&R) in 1991.

Chronology

1969

Born in Harlem, New York on November 4

1988–90

Attends Howard University

1990

Becomes intern at Uptown Records

1991

Promoted to director of A&R at Uptown

1992

Promoted to vice president of A&R and artistic development at Uptown; establishes Bad Boy Entertainment

1993

Fired from Uptown; signs a multi-million dollar deal for Bad Boy Entertainment with Arista records

1995

Establishes Daddy’s House Social Programs

1997

Begins recording career; makes acting debut on The Steve Harvey Show ; opens Justin’s restaurant in New York

1998

Establishes Sean John clothing line

1999

Opens Justin’s restaurant in Atlanta

2000

Sponsors the annual Hosea’s Feed the Hungry and Homeless Thanksgiving Day Dinner in Atlanta for more than thirty thousand people

2001

Makes film debut in Made ; acts in Monster’s Ball ; found not guilty of all charges stemming from a December 1999 shooting at a New York City nightclub

2002

Ends joint-venture with Arista; serves as executive producer of Making the Band 2

2003

Signs contract with Universal to distribute and promote Bad Boy Records

2004

Announces his retirement from solo recording; stars on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun

2005

Ends deal with Universal; enters joint-venture with Warner; serves as executive producer of Making the Band 3 ; establishes Sean by Sean Combs clothing line for women; introduces Unforgivable, a men’s fragrance

In 1991, Combs and Heavy D promoted a celebrity benefit basketball game at the City College of New York. The event, which attracted more people than expected, turned into a disaster because five thousand tickets had been sold, yet the gymnasium’s capacity was less than 2,800 people. Nine people were killed, and approximately twenty-eight people were injured in a stampede at the doors of the gymnasium. Family members of the deceased sued Combs, Heavy D, the college, and the city. Combs was defended in court by famed attorney William Kunstler. The suit was settled for $3.8 million, and Combs paid $750,000. A separate lawsuit, filed by those who were injured at the event, was settled on May 24, 2000.

After the City College of New York tragedy, Combs was besieged with additional legal troubles, including three events in 1999. In 2005, Combs and Random House settled a lawsuit in which the publishing company alleged that Combs never returned a $300,000 advance for a memoir that he failed to complete in 1999. In 2001, a jury found Combs not guilty on all charges of illegal possession of a weapon and attempted bribery of a witness stemming from a December 1999 shooting in a Manhattan nightclub that wounded three individuals. In July 1999, Combs settled out of court with Steve Stoute, an executive at Interscope Records, after Combs and two bodyguards allegedly assaulted Stoute. The settlement amount was $500,000. However, Combs had to appear in New York Criminal Court in September 1999 to answer criminal charges. He pleaded guilty to reduced assault charges and was sentenced to a one-day anger management class. The New York district attorney’s office reduced the charges from a felony status to a violation.

During his tenure at Uptown, Combs enjoyed his first success as a record producer. Jodeci’s single, “Come and Talk to Me,” the first record Combs produced, sold two million copies. His stature as a producer increased with the release of such successful albums as Jodeci’s Forever My Lady (1991) and Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411? (1992). In 1992, Combs was promoted to vice president of A&R and artist development; he also established Bad Boy Entertainment, a record, production, and management company and planned to distribute Bad Boy Records through Uptown. However, Combs, who was considered arrogant and a threat to his colleagues, was fired from Uptown in 1993.

Appears on Television, in Films, and on Broadway

Over the years, Combs appeared on a variety of talk shows, specials, and award shows. Verification that his appeal extends beyond the urban youth market came with his appearance on such mainstream television programs as Live with Regis and Kelly and Martha . Combs has hosted such programs as MTV Video Awards (2005) and the MTV Europe Music Awards (2002) in Barcelona.

Combs was the executive producer of the reality television series Making the Band 2 (2002), which was MTV’s third highest rated show, and Making the Band 3 (2005). Each series followed the creation of a hip-hop/R&B group under Combs’ tutelage. He also served as the executive producer of P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy (2005) and the co-executive producer of Run’s House (2005).

Combs, who made his acting debut on the The Steve Harvey Show in 1997, made his film debut with a small role in Made (2001) . In Monster’s Ball (2001), he played Lawrence Musgrove, a death-row inmate and husband of Leticia Musgrove, played by Halle Berry, who in 2002 became the first African American to receive the Academy Award for best actress for her performance. Combs has also appeared in Death of a Dynasty (2003) and the made-for-television film, Love in Vain (2004).

Many people were surprised when it was announced that Combs would star in the 2004 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s play, at the Royale Theater. Combs’ co-stars were Phylicia Rashad, who in 2004 became the first African American to receive the Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a play; Audra McDonald, who won the Tony Award for best featured actress in a play; and Sanaa Latham. Had he been cast in a lesser role as Bobo or George Murchison, not as many individuals would have questioned Combs’ association in the play. However, he was cast as Walter Lee Younger, which was originally played by Sidney Poitier on Broadway and in the 1961 film. Although Combs was not nominated for a Tony, his theatrical effort attracted younger people to Broadway.

Establishes Restaurants, Clothing Lines, and Fragrances

As early as 1997, Combs began to pursue new ventures that would prove profitable. That year, he opened Justin’s restaurant in New York City. The restaurant is named after the eldest of Combs’ two sons: Justin and Christian. Two years later, Combs opened Justin’s in Atlanta.

In 1998, Combs founded Sean John, a line of designer clothing for men. He began with fifty thousand black hats and T-shirts that displayed his signature. Combs directs his own designers, and Sean John, unlike apparel made under licenses by a number of other celebrities, makes 70 percent of its clothes. The clothes are sold in such stores as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Fred Segal. His casual men’s wear line is responsible for 70 percent of Sean John’s sales. According to Tracie Rozhon of the New York Times , teenagers spend approximately $42 billion each year on clothes, including sales for Sean John of approximately $400 million. Sean John has been acknowledged as paving the way for other entertainers to have their own clothing lines. Sean John, since its inception, has been nominated for a Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award, and Combs won the CFDA’s Top Men’s Wear Designer of the Year Award in 2004.

Combs, basking in the success of his Sean John line, created a women’s clothing line known as Sean by Sean Combs in 2005. The clothes are sold in such stores as Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Also in 2005, Combs, in collaboration with the Estee Lauder Company, introduced Unforgivable, his fragrance for men. Givaudan, the company that created Unforgivable, mixed scents 666 times before Combs was pleased with the fragrance. The bottle is designed to look like the Sean John store on New York’s Fifth Avenue and Forty-first Street. Combs introduced a limited edition of fifteen thousand bottles that contain a higher concentrated version of the fragrance for $300. In early 2006, a mass market version of Unforgivable, with a $55 price tag, was introduced.

Among Bad Boy’s other enterprises are the Blue Flame Marketing and Advertising and Janice Combs Management, and Daddy’s House Studios.

Known for His Opulent Lifestyle

Combs, who inherited his strong work ethic from his mother, is a workaholic who has been known to work eighteen to twenty hours a day. He continues to reap the material rewards of his labor. Combs offers no excuses for his lavish way of living; instead, he asserts in an April 1998 Ebony article, “I come from the kings and queens of Africa. I deserve the best. We all deserve the best. I’m not ashamed to say that I like the best in life, and I work hard every day to get it. It’s not a selfish thing.”

Combs possesses mansions, Bentleys, and a yacht. He is known for his extravagant parties. One thousand people attended his twenty-ninth birthday party at New York’s Cipriani Wall Street restaurant, and the tab was $600,000. In the summers, he holds White Parties in the Hamptons where each guest must wear white clothing. At the party on July 4, 2004, he and his fellow A Raisin in the Sun cast members arrived after the matinee performance in two helicopters Combs chartered for them. On display at the party was an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, and Combs used the festive occasion to launch Citizens Change, a nonpartisan voter registration organization.

Practices Philanthropy

While Combs’ enjoys a lavish lifestyle, he is also generous in helping others. In addition to his donation to the Christopher Wallace Foundation, Combs has contributed to many charitable institutions and organizations. He is the founder of the Sean “Puffy” Combs and Janice Combs Endowed Scholarship Fund at Howard University.

Perhaps Combs’ most well known charitable endeavor has been his completing the New York Marathon on November 2, 2003, for which he raised $2 million for children’s charities. Youths consistently benefit from Combs’ largesse. In 1995, he founded Daddy’s House Social Programs, Inc. Daddy’s House, with Sister Souljah as executive director, offers inner-city youths academic tutoring, opportunities for high school seniors to participate in tours of colleges, international travel, Bad Boy internships, summer camping programs, and courses in the stock market as well as financial skills. Combs donated one hundred computers to public schools in Harlem. During more than one yuletide season, he has delivered gifts to children in New York City’s hospitals and foster care homes. Daddy’s House sponsors an annual food drive. In 2000, after the death of Rev. Hosea Williams, Combs sponsored the annual Hosea’s Feed the Hungry and Homeless Thanksgiving Day dinner for more than thirty thousand in Atlanta.

Combs has garnered a variety of honors and awards. He is the recipient of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Equal Justice Award, 2005; Patrick Lippert Award, for his ongoing work with the Rock the Vote organization, 2004; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Songwriter of the Year Award, 1996, 1997, and 2000; ASCAP’s Rhythm and Soul Award, 1995; Howard University’s Alumni Achievement Award in Entertainment and Business, 1999; and World Music Awards for Best-Selling Rap Artist of the Year, 1998, and for Best-Selling New Artist, 1998. He has won Grammy Awards for best rap performance by a duo or group, with Nelly and Murphy Lee, 2004, and with Faith Evans and 112, 1998, and Best Rap Album, 1998. In addition, Combs had the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch through New York City’s streets for one lap on June 19, 2004.

In 2001 Combs, who was then known as Puff Daddy, changed his name to P. Diddy. Three years later, P. Diddy changed his name back to his birth name—Sean Coms. Regardless of the name changes and the controversy he generates at times, Combs remains committed to his work as an entertainer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

Combs, Sean “Puffy” (aka “Puff Daddy”) [next] [back] Combining Intra-Image and Inter-Class Semantics for Image Matching

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