The Sad Postscript To One Of Music's Biggest Success Stories
On the surface, Sean "Puff Daddy / Puffy / P. Diddy / Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records was one of the biggest success stories in music over the past few decades. However, with the possible exception of Combs himself, there aren't a lot of individual success stories within it. Yes, Bad Boy has released dozens of hits and introduced the world to a lot of names that are still recognizable today, but when you dig into the details, you find that there aren't a lot of happy endings for the artists themselves. We talk about that on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Quincy Johnson and Cracked editor Alex Schmidt. It's also what I'm talking about right damn now in this column here today.
From the beginning of his emergence as a prominent figure in rap music, Puffy has been hounded by controversy and tragedy. He first made headlines way back in 1991, when a celebrity basketball game he organized for charity sold way more tickets than the venue could accommodate -- an oversight that ultimately led to nine attendees being trampled to death outside the venue.
That's a bad look, obviously, but the controversy didn't impede the future music mogul's ability to climb the corporate ladder. Over the next few years, he used the things he learned working at Andre Harrell's Uptown Records (a job he was eventually fired from) to form his own label: Bad Boy Records. The first notable success for his new venture came in the form of a weird-as-shit single from a weird-as-shit rapper named Craig Mack.
Unfortunately, as huge as that single was, Mack would become the first casualty in Bad Boy's long line of artists who signed with them and ultimately met less-than-desirable ends. For him, the main problem was this guy:
As far as I know, he's still doing fine.
That's Notorious B.I.G., and I have no doubt that you're already familiar with the insanely depressing end to his chapter in rap history. What you might not know is that for some reason, he just clean hated Craig Mack. Apparently, Puffy came to feel the exact same way, because he put all of his time and energy into promoting Biggie, at which point Mack just sort of disappeared. He did eventually release another album ...
Sweet vest, bro.
... but no one gave a shit. No worries, though. He's obviously super talented, so surely he landed on his feet at some point, right? Nah. At last check, he'd joined a cult called Overcomer Ministries (run by a convicted sex offender) and has given up on music completely. There's even video to prove it!
So the first two prominent signings on Bad Boy Records didn't exactly go well, but Puff wasn't done finding top-notch talent. Remember Mase?
That's "Ma$e" to you.
His first album was huge, and his guest appearances made him a mid-'90s rap darling, but his second album flopped -- possibly because immediately prior to its release, he quit music to become a Christian minister. He's flirted with comebacks over the years, but something about the music business always sends him fleeing back to the comforting embrace of organized religion.
Puff Daddy: accidental missionary.
Okay, so two of Bad Boy's first three major acts found God after their days with Bad Boy were over, and the other (hopefully) found the place that believing in God leads you to. That doesn't say great things about the outcomes that await a person who embarks upon a recording career with Bad Boy, but at least in the case of Craig Mack and Mase, their stories have a much happier ending than that of former Puff Daddy protege Shyne. He was supposed to be the next Notorious B.I.G., mostly because they have nearly identical voices.
That didn't happen. Instead, he ended up in prison on attempted murder charges after he was involved in a shooting at a nightclub party he attended with Puffy and Jennifer Lopez.
I spent a lot of time back then trying to convince people that J-Lo was probably the shooter.
Since we're on the subject, here's an interview in which he talks about how, despite the fact that they were co-defendants in the subsequent trial, his former boss called a witness to testify against him.
So that's shady! Even worse, upon being released after serving ten years in prison, Shyne was promptly deported to his home country of Belize because of his conviction. There's no proof, but he swears Puffy is responsible for that as well.
Unfortunately, prison sentences seem to be a common outcome among the Bad Boy family. Remember Black Rob?
Whoa! Of course you do! He had that one huge single from a debut album which eventually sold enough copies to achieve platinum status. However, his second album went almost completely unnoticed. By 2007, he was in prison for failing to appear in court for sentencing on a previous larceny charge stemming from an incident in which $6,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from a hotel room. He received a seven-year sentence. He was released in 2010, but his troubles weren't over. In 2014, he suffered a mild stroke. He recovered, but damn if that isn't a string of terrible luck.
Also, what discussion about Bad Boy's most respected and well-known artists would be complete without mentioning G-Dep? You remember that guy, right? Of course you don't! I didn't even recognize the name until a friend brought it up when I was telling them about this article. His time with Bad Boy was mostly unremarkable, as was most of his life after. That all changed in 2010, when he casually strolled into the NYPD's 25th precinct and confessed to a cold case murder he'd committed nearly 20 years earlier.
Sadly, he wasn't the last Bad Boy affiliate to face prison time. Lil' Kim was never officially signed to the label, which probably accounts for why she's far and away the most successful living artist mentioned in this column who isn't Puff Daddy.
You don't get molested by Diana Ross by being average.
That said, she still managed to land herself a prison stint after being convicted of perjury for giving false testimony at a trial relating to a shooting her entourage was involved in outside of a New York radio station. She's also been the frequent target of jokes and rumors about plastic surgery, but on the bright side, none of this changes the fact that "Lighters Up" is a fucking fantastic song.
Nevertheless, she still stands as yet another example of how being associated with Bad Boy seems to be a direct path to personal and/or career-related catastrophe.
Honestly, aside from Puffy himself, it's hard to think of a single Bad Boy artist who's gone on to any sort of enduring success, but that doesn't keep people from signing with the label. The most recent standout to come from that camp is a rapper named French Montana.
He's not dead or in prison yet, so that's good, but goddamn does weird shit seem to follow him around. For starters, he met his producer, Harry Fraud, when the studio in which the two were working on separate projects was raided by police. Turns out the building was also being used to produce bootleg Gucci handbags.
In 2014, he showed up at a Super Bowl pre-party, only to be arrested for an outstanding warrant from five years earlier.
A few months later, he was shooting a video in Brooklyn when, unbeknownst to anyone on the set, neighbors called police to inform them that several individuals were seen carrying guns in the huge crowd that had gathered. Plainclothes police officers swooped in to case the scene and ultimately arrested five people. French was not one of the people arrested, but you get the point. Shit starts happening when you sign with Bad Boy.
Of course, it would be hard to argue that any of this applies to Sean Combs himself. His career has been consistently fine for a couple decades now. However, a nasty rumor that's been dogging him for years is receiving a whole new wave of attention. That rumor, specifically, is that he paid members of the Crips street gang to kill Tupac Shakur, and the renewed interested is all thanks to a new documentary: Murder Rap: Inside The Biggie And Tupac Murders.
It features an extensive interview with a gang member named "Keefe D" who claims to be the man Puffy initially contacted about doing the job. There's no statute of limitations on murder, so whether the claims are true or not, they still represent a very bad look for legendary music mogul. So much so that during a recent morning radio show appearance, he was asked about the documentary and the explosive claims it makes. Here's what he said:
"We don't talk about things that are nonsense. We don't even entertain nonsense, my brother. So we're not even going to go there, with all due respect. I appreciate you as a journalist asking. Thank you."
That's a perfectly reasonable answer, and sounds exactly like what an innocent man would say. However, he wasn't done. He went on to add:
"I'mma tell you all this, this is very important. I got this new hashtag. It's called new life. I had to start living a new life, man. The way I was approaching things, the way I was reacting to things, we all grow up. We all do things in ways that maybe you can do better. I'm just trying to figure out ways to do better. I know I'm in the public eye. I gotta handle all types of different stuff. You all have a job to do. It ain't no problem. But I'm in control of what I say. I don't get into nonsense. I don't have nothing but love for everybody. God sent me on this earth to give life, to inspire life, to only do things that are positive. Any negative things that I've done, that's the devil at work. At the end of the day, the devil's a liar and I can't feed into negativity or anything like that when I'm in control of myself."
"Holy shit, he totally had me killed, huh?"
So ... the devil killed Tupac? Why would you even elaborate like that? His first denial was perfectly adequate. The second half makes it sound like maybe he did it, but deserves forgiveness because he came up with a new hashtag. Does he not have a lawyer? I'm assuming he does, and I'd love to hear the conversation they had after this interview aired. Or, provided he hired the worst lawyer of all time, the conversation that led to him believing that's a reasonable response to queries about the murder you've been accused of orchestrating. I get that he told us a long time ago that he won't stop, but when it comes to talking about the murder of Tupac Shakur, it seems like that's exactly what Diddy needs to do.
You should follow Adam on Twitter @adamtodbrown. Seriously.
Find out how record labels are reducing sound quality in 5 Things Record Labels Don't Want You to Know They Do, and learn how a record label can convince dumb kids that they're rock stars in 7 Things a Record Deal Teaches You About the Music Industry.
Also follow us on Facebook, because we like you, but we're too shy to make the first move.