From Puff Daddy to Puffy to Diddy to Love, Sean Combs reinvents himself yet again
Combs says Belafonte was a role model for the type of activism he envisions for this next stage of his public life. “I was like, we were in similar situations. Do you know what I’m saying? Coming from where we had a position of power, being celebrities, and I was wondering, how [Belafonte] to sink so much in [social action]? And by truly dedicating his life. He’s always dedicated himself to something. But as young Combs devoted himself to family, friends, and earning enough money to buy the kind of freedom he felt the world was denying him, the elder Combs devoted himself to making this happen. possible freedom for others. He says he walked through “history” and his own biography on his journey to the Age of Love. In this dig, he saw the stuff of someone destined to save his people. “The person who was able to go do Bad Boy, if he’s in charge of getting us together, that sounds like ‘He’s the good son of a bitch.’ “
I believe Combs. I also believe women in church who say God told them that someone else’s man is their husband. If they like it, then I like it. Yet if I could ask one thing of the women of the church, it would be the same thing that I tried to ask Combs with little success: I believe God told you that you have been chosen … but the did he tell everyone?
Sean “Love” combs is a man standing at the crossroads of many marine changes. He is a not-so-young man whose legitimacy as a cultural icon rests on his power to keep the culture of youth. The influencer culture took the prototypes that Combs helped innovate and blend business with social awareness. It is no longer enough to look elegant or create the new dance. Today’s celebrity must have a stance on climate change, white supremacy, LGBTQ + equality, and politics. Combs is also a father of a daughter. He has six children, including three 14-year-old daughters as we speak. He wants his daughters to inherit the keys to his kingdom equally with his three sons. Raising a trio of bosses brings a dad into the #MeToo movement. Combs looks back on the international playboy of his youth and on the near future where his daughters become young women. Most importantly, Combs is trying to do the brand iteration that made it successful in an openly hostile climate to what its brand represents. Combs’ “black excellence” is, in practice, a celebration of black capitalism. And, if you haven’t noticed, a lot of people have called capitalism the number one enemy. It is perhaps too fine a cultural wireframe for a diddy bop.
That won’t stop Combs from trying. He launched a diversity training program this summer with the mighty Endeavor. The six-week course is dubbed, after Combs’ style, “The Program of Excellence” and is designed to support aspiring entertainment executives from under-represented communities. It comes at a time when the entertainment agency model is being criticized for its lack of racial diversity. It’s part of Combs’ desire to use his platform for the collective good. But his understanding of what constitutes good may be at odds with the communities from which he draws some of his inspiration.
In the spring of 2021, Combs published an open letter to “American companies” in which it called on companies to increase their spending on black-owned media companies, claiming that “incremental progress” in ad spend parity is unacceptable. . Combs sees himself as the advocate for the black consumer in the “If you like us, pay us” missive. But critics were quick to say his appeal was hypocritical, in part because Combs owns Revolt, a cable TV network that courted ad dollars. Rapper Noname is the kind of artist that would have been hard to imagine during Puff Daddy’s heyday. Noname is a fiercely independent rapper who, along with other contemporary artists like Chance the Rapper, rejects the traditional contract with a label that is both artistic and political.
Former Bad Boy artists The LOX and Mase have publicly criticized Combs for trapping them in what they saw as unfair deals in the past. Black capitalism, argues Noname, wants Combs’ individual success to be celebrated as social progress. She said on Twitter that Combs “shamed white businesses for a capitalist business model that he almost entirely replicated.” This is not an isolated review. It’s a generation. Young audiences reject the uncritical boosterism of capitalism. And in a wider swath of pop culture, consumers are demonstrating a willingness to demand more from their para-social besties. This instinct is quite strong among young black audiences, many of whom have participated in the Black Lives Matter protests over the past couple of years. Hip-hop artists can still do a song like “Party and Bullshit”, that’s for sure. But they can’t do it without the audience wondering if the bullshit was consensual and if the party had a purpose.
For his part, Combs tells me that he doesn’t bother bringing in those who don’t agree with him. “I can’t get caught up in this. I know where my heart is, and you can’t do it alone with black people. You must have all types of allies. And that’s something I’m good at, I’m good at being a unifier, but I’m not going to be in a room with other tribes protecting themselves and making sure they’re straight and don’t not ensure that we are straight. But also, I’m not a politician, I’m not trying to be someone’s king or dictator. I am a boy from Harlem who came here for a change. We all have our story.
The story of Combs is a tale of Horatio Alger. He started from the bottom and now he’s here, so to speak. It was the story of a hero who made sense to know where culture was in 1999, even where it was in 2005. The 15 years leading up to the Great Recession of 2008 were a time of unbridled economic optimism. It was the era of turmoil, and the culture of black youth translated it into an ethic, identity and ideology. Lester Spence is Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Johns Hopkins University. In his book on black neoliberalism, he calls this hip-hop philosophy the “Can’t Knock the Hustle” mythology of modern black capitalism. This myth made sense in the year 2000, when black America, in particular, waged the war on drugs by squeezing every ounce of opportunity out of Bill Clinton’s expanding economy. Before financial bubbles burst rapidly in the 2000s, the stampede seemed democratic. Anyone with the right dream and the right grind could get away with this, sometimes literally but usually metaphorically. In 2021, jostling doesn’t sound like fun. It sounds like a chore, a set of coping responses to a hostile social order that has left millions behind. This kind of moment requires a different kind of story and maybe a different kind of storyteller. It’s not that unrest is dead, but that the valuing of the culture of restlessness is surely on the ropes. The hard core of hip-hop wants to debate the veracity of the scramble when predatory mortgages, student loan debts, rising rents, fixed salaries and surveillance police states choke the lives of even black lives, hopes black and black bustle. Combs reverently speaks of Black Lives Matter, calling it “part of the Black Renaissance” and truly “part of the Age of Love”.
“Her public face and her entertainment character don’t show what’s going on in her head and behind the scenes,” says Dalio. “It is not apparent how he uses his God-given talents, financial resources and network to make products that people love to buy, and then uses those resources to make the world a better place for the African American community.”