Melvin and Janice welcomed their son into the world on November 4, 1969. Living in Harlem, Janice was a model and a teacher’s assistant. Melvin worked the streets, reputedly an associate of a known drug dealer, Frank Lucas. What isn’t in question is that Melvin was a homicide victim when Sean was but three years old.
With her husband murdered, Janice moved her family to a safer environment, settling in Mount Vernon, New York a suburb which bordered the Bronx. She worked three jobs at times to support her children, Sean and his sister Keisha. Sean was able to attend grammar school at Mount Vernon Montessori School before attending high school at Mount Saint Michael Academy. While there, Sean played football. He developed the habit of puffing up his chest to appear bigger than he was in hopes of intimidating the opposition. That tactic may or may not have succeeded, but the practice did lead to his teammates calling him Puffy, a nickname which would last
Sean attended Howard University, majoring in business. His plans took a turn when he obtained an internship with Uptown Records. Almost by accident he had discovered a talent and a passion. Embracing his gift, he immersed himself in the recording business, leaving Howard University after two years. Within a year he became Uptown’s Director of Artists and Repertoire. Sean had become a force in New York’s hip-hop scene.
By the time he was 21, Sean was charged with ensuring the successful of debut albums for Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. Succeed they did. Sean was able to incorporate his understanding and vision of the urban youth into the talent of the stars. As a result, they became stars in a new niche, hip-hop soul.
In 1993, Sean started his own label – Bad Boy Entertainment – signing an exclusive partnership with Artista Records. Bad Boy’s first release, an album by his friend Craig Mack, sold 1,000,000 copies. The next release was that of another friend, Christopher Wallace. That album, titled Ready to Die, also sold over 1,000,000 copies. More importantly, it introduced the music world to a najor new talent. Wallace performed with the name Notorious B.I.G. (and sometimes Biggie Smalls) – monikers which would have a major impact in the hip-hop genre.
Bad Boy Entertainment, namely Sean, was immediately in demand, producing a string of performers who would realize great success. Mariah Carey, Usher and TLC all reached superstar status, while other artists produced by Sean would reach platinum sales. It wasn’t until 1997 that Sean released his own single Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down, under the nickname he was given in high school – Puffy. Several albums would follow.
Sean discovered another area in which he could engage his creative drive – the fashion industry. He launched a line of clothing in 1998, inspired by and appealing to the fans of the music he produced. What transpired was that a much broader audience was attracted to the clothes – and the music. Sean had successfully translated a musical culture into a clothing line. An integral element in the success was Sean’s ability as a producer and promoter.
His recording business was transitioned to Bad Boy Entertainment Group to accommodate the fashion business and further interests which Sean would pursue. That was a smart business move as Sean would continue to expand his interests – both in business and philanthropy. Today, Sean is worth an estimated $735 million. More impressive is the impact that he and his companies have had culturally and socially. He has produced countless stars and their music. He has inspired a generation of youth to pursue their dreams and vision. He has shown that one need not be limited by their environment or stereotypes. All of this results from the fact that one man pursued his passion, embraced and expanded his talents and created art, music and fashion which was relevant to an entire market. This success is because Sean “Diddy” Combs is a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands never stop transforming
Sean Diddy Combs, Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Sean Jean – all names which have combined to build Diddy’s empire. Puff Daddy resulted from a nickname. The clothing company, Sean Jean, simply uses his first and middle names. Sean finally settled on Diddy, to eliminate confusion with his fan base and the public as a whole.
Yes, Sean Diddy Combs has had no shortage of controversy in his life. He was arrested on weapons charges and assault in a 1999 incident at Club New York in Manhattan. He was eventually cleared of all charges. His great friend, Notorious B.I.G., was murdered and the rumors swirled that it was in retribution for the earlier murder of Tupac Shakur – a rival rapper. There has not been any validation of that scenario. Most recently, Diddy had a confrontation with a UCLA football coach whom he thought was unfairly badgering his son, a player on the team.
It’s this type of disruption that many believe is at the root of Sean Comb’s success. His approach is to push boundaries and question the norm. He does that with a purpose. He pushes to drive new levels of creativity and new thinking – all directed at making things better.
He also has a powerful philanthropic side. He ran in the New York City Marathon in 2003 to raise money for children’s charities and New York public schools. His stated goal was to raise $1,000,000 – the result was double that. Most recently he has announced the formation of a Charter School – the Capital Prep Harlem School. The school will open in the autumn of 2016 and focus on sixth and seventh grade students.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to become a pop music megastar. You likely won’t start a globally successful clothing line, a water brand, or produce countless award winning records and stars. What you can do is learn from Diddy’s experience as you build your brand.
It’s all about your passion – Regular readers of this blog – as well as anyone who truly understands branding – knows that success starts by tapping into your passion – finding and pursuing your purpose. Sean Combs didn’t know he would become a force in the music and fashion industries. What he did know was that he had a strong creative drive and was able to understand and relate to an entire demographic. His passion was creativity – his purpose was to positively impact society.
Disruption can be a positive – As addressed earlier, Diddy understands that disrupting the norm can result in powerful new ideas. The key is to be constructively disruptive. Disruptive merely for the sake of shaking things up is not likely to yield acceptable results. Questioning your brand, the environment in which you exist, the norms of your business and life can be a very healthy and productive exercise.
Your environment need not define you – It may have been easier for Sean Combs to fall into the same trap that his father did. For Diddy that was not an option. He was able to embrace his environment and look at the positives. He chose not to be drawn into the allure of the streets. Don’t let your environment keep you from fulfilling your purpose – from achieving your dreams.
Sean Diddy Combs has had enormous success. He has had more than his share of controversy. What he has done is to carve a path which few have been able to do. He has proven to an entire generation that they hold the key to their own future. He teaches us to embrace our passion. Do that. Find your purpose. Define your goals. Question the norm. Seek improvement. Build your fearless brand.