Sean Diddy

He was a hip-hop legend. Now, abuse allegations engulf Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
March 31, 2024 at 22:41
Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs in New York in 2016. Photograph: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images
Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs in New York in 2016. Photograph: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Lawsuits and federal raids marred his anticipated comeback, with one of America’s biggest music powerhouses falling to inquiries of sex-trafficking and sexual abuse

Last September, on the release of an anticipated comeback album, the hip-hop impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs, formerly known as P Diddy and Puff Daddy, spoke about how he had renamed himself Love, and his new album would be titled, The Love Album: Off the Grid.

Combs told GQ he’d made the album because he didn’t know where the love was at. “I didn’t know how to turn it back on,” Combs said. “And then, one day God came to me – and God’s a woman. So She was like, ‘It’s time, baby.’”

If God is exerting influence on Combs’s life, however, then She is probably angry and it has nothing to do with his music, if multiple civil claims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse and federal agents raiding his homes in Los Angeles and Miami are any indication of divine intervention. Far from riding a comeback wave on the back of his Love album, Combs’s reputation is under threat more than ever before. Instead of going down in the annals of hip-hop fame, Combs’s name is now mentioned in the US media alongside fallen stars and moguls like R Kelly and Harvey Weinstein.

The raid on Combs’s homes on Monday were reportedly authorized by a search warrant out of New York’s southern district as part of an “ongoing investigation” into sex-trafficking allegations. At least three people at Combs’s home in Los Angeles appeared to be cuffed by agents, including briefly Combs’s sons, 30-year-old Justin and 25-year-old King. In Miami, four people in Combs’s entourage were similarly restrained at his Miami Beach mansion.

Another Combs associate, described as Diddy’s “mule” in a civil lawsuit against the music producer, was arrested on drug charges at the OpaLocka airport, north of the city, where Combs’s black Gulfstream jet had touched down.

The rap mogul was seen chatting with agents before the plane flew on to Antigua. But Combs did not join the family-and-friends Caribbean vacation trip, and his whereabouts are unknown. The 54-year-old, three-time Grammy winner was not arrested, nor has he been charged with any offenses. He has previously strenuously denied all allegations.

Aaron Dyer, an attorney for Combs, protested that there was “no excuse for the excessive show of force and hostility exhibited by authorities or the way his children and employees were treated”.

Dyer called the raid a “gross overuse of military-level force”, an “unprecedented ambush”, and “nothing more than a witch-hunt based on meritless accusations”.

But the shocking raids came a month after a lawsuit was filed in New York by the music producer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones that accuses Combs of being the leader of a criminal enterprise that could qualify as a “widespread and dangerous criminal sex trafficking organization”.

Jones, who worked on the Love album, claims that he was forced to “solicit sex workers and perform sex acts to the pleasure of Mr Combs”.

Jones’s lawsuit alleges that bold-face names added “legitimacy” to Combs’ alleged sex-trafficking parties because of his “access to celebrities such as famous athletes, political figures, artists, musicians, and international dignitaries like British Royal, Prince Harry”. Prince Harry is not accused of any wrongdoing.


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The home of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is seen during a raid by federal law enforcement agents on Monday in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: MEGA/GC Images



Puffy connected a lot of dots, connected people to a different kind of glamor and aspiration, and brought hip-hop into a different place in the world - Alan Light


Throughout Combs’s career there have been signs that his brand of show business hip-hop capitalism had flaws that many were willing to overlook.

“Puffy connected a lot of dots, connected people to a different kind of glamor and aspiration, and brought hip-hop into a different place in the world,” Vibe magazine’s editor, Alan Light, told the Guardian.

When Combs announced his arrival in New York society with an all-white party in the Hamptons in 1998, the first installment of a series that eventually moved to St Tropez and Beverly Hills, Paris Hilton described him as a “modern-day Gatsby”.

He featured in Vogue alongside Kate Moss in Paris; editor-in-chief Anna Wintour contributed a spoken word passage to a 2011 album with a new group Diddy Dirty Money. But the rock writer Cynthia Fuchs had written a decade earlier that the “hypester-hustler-supreme version of Combs long overstayed his welcome”.

During the notorious east coast-west coast rap wars of 1990s, which saw Death Row Records’ Tupac Shakur and Bad Boy’s Biggie Smalls murdered, Combs presented as a would-be gangster prone to overreach to prove his tough credentials.

Combs was born in Harlem in 1970. His father was murdered when he was three and Combs was raised in the New York suburb of Mount Vernon. In contrast to his peers, he had a comfortable middle-class existence – educated at a private Catholic school in the Bronx, he later studied business at Howard University and hustled a job at Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records.

Signs of Combs’s overreach came as soon as 1991, when seven people were killed in a stampede at a celebrity basketball game he’d promoted. In May 1999, Steve Stoute, Interscope records executive, described how Combs and two accomplices had burst into his office in New York.

“One minute I’m in the middle of a meeting,” Stoute told the LA Times, “and the next minute I’m down on the floor and Puffy and his guys are kicking and pounding me. Then Puffy throws my desk over and they just walk out like nothing happened.”

Light says there was a certain amount of trouble with Combs from the beginning. “There’s always been this stuff around him. Some is the world you’re moving in, but some speaks to how you’re doing business.”

There have been recent signs that Combs’s lifestyle of diamonds, furs and champagne is under stress. Last year, he sued the British spirits giant Diageo alleging that the company had neglected the spirits under their joint control, accused the company of racism and resenting him for making too much money.

Diageo denied the claims and accused Combs of resorting to “false and reckless” allegations “in an effort to extract additional billions” from the company. The case was resolved in January with Diageo acquiring sole ownership of the brands.

But as Combs’s story takes a new turn with the interjection of federal authorities, there may be a larger reckoning in play.

“Understandings around sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, the different rules under which the music business operates, and the extent to which it’s a night-time thing, secreted from the public, done in studios or in clubs, may now be shaking out,” Light says. “I think we’ve all been waiting for more people to be called out for unacceptable behavior.”

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