Sean “Diddy” Combs is a success on many fronts. It’s difficult to pin down his strongest suit, but his greatest talent may be in finding potential in a person or product and fully realizing it. Look at the long list of talents signed by Bad Boy Records, or any of his other business ventures ranging from entertainment to food to clothing. He’s gone by the names Sean Combs, Puff Daddy, Puffy, and P. Diddy, until finally settling on Diddy. Whatever he calls himself, his image stands as his brand. His Midas Touch transforms anything to a guaranteed success – as long as he attaches one of his names to it.
Combs was born in Harlem, New York in 1969. His mother was a teaching assistant and his father served in the US Air Force before his death in 1971. Combs dropped out of Howard University in his senior year to intern at Uptown Records. Soon after becoming talent director, he started his own label, Bad Boy Records, attracting some of the hottest musical acts of the ‘90s.
Combs has always had an eye (and an ear) for potential. He discovered and produced the work of Notorious B.I.G., a music icon who is arguably to rap what Freddie Mercury is to rock music. Not happy with producing one of the biggest acts in music, Combs became one himself in 1997 with his album debut, No Way Out. His winning formula involved sampling classic tunes, adding a catchy hook and surrounding himself with other talented artists.
Music acted as the linchpin for many of Combs’ future successes. Aside from making six albums, he was executive producer for a reality TV show. Making Da Band focused on unknown musical talents working on a debut album. Combs took the reigns of the show for several seasons as producer, host and manager. The show was cemented as classic when comedian Dave Chappelle parodied it, playing the part of Sean Combs (among others).
In an attempt to evolve past music while still working as a producer, Combs tried his hand at acting. He’s appeared in several memorable roles on hit movies and television shows. His charisma and comedic improvisation stole the show in Get Him to the Greek (2010), and he also had a guest role on FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Combs’ greatest success outside of music, came in fashion through his Sean John apparel brand. When his fashion line debuted in 1998, hip hop culture didn’t need or want a guide for identity or apparel. However, Combs foresaw an aesthetic shift that saw many flock toward a more luxurious identity like diamond-encrusted cups, or rapper Drake’s high-end OVO store. Check any Macy’s department store for proof that Sean John helped shift hip hop from “thug life” to “bling”.
Combs found his niche in attaching his name (or at least one of them) to top-line products like Ciroc vodka. He became their brand ambassador in 2007 for 50% share of the profits, and now it’s a highly sought-after party drink. Following the success of Ciroc, the prolific mogul moved on to an ultra-premium brand of tequila, DeLeon, that sells for $90 (US) a shot. If that’s too much alcohol for you, Combs has the hangover cure. Along with Mark Wahlberg and billionaire Ron Burkle, Combs invested a double-digit stake in Aquahydrate water. What sets Aquahydrate apart from other water brands? It boasts double the number of electrolytes and an elevated alkaline pH level that classifies it as a “performance water brand”.
In 2014 Combs made a commencement speech at Howard University, where he dropped out of years prior to his success. He admitted to making mistakes, dropping out being one of them. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that you cannot achieve success without failure.” Aside from his fearlessness of trying new business ventures, another proponent of Combs success is his hard work ethic. He told CBSNews: “No matter what I’m going to do, I’m going to work harder and I’m going to be the best at what that is.”
A Jack of all trades, Sean Combs proves that business barriers don’t apply to him. He’s the embodiment of his first hit single, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”. What he accomplished along his way is nothing short of revolutionary. He’s integrated into hip hop music, clothing and party culture, to the point where his brand is synonymous with all three. However, when it comes to making names for himself, he may need some help.
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog