A Family Affair: The Unauthorized Sean "Puffy" Combs Story

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9780345426529: A Family Affair: The Unauthorized Sean

HIP-HOP'S "DADDY"

The New York Times calls Puff Daddy "a rapper, a dancer, a mourner, a preacher, a trash-talking homeboy." He's also one of the most successful music artists of our time. As CEO of the hottest, most controversial label of the decade--Bad Boy Entertainment--he's taken hip-hop out of the underground, birthing the careers of such powerhouse artists as The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, Craig Mack, and Total. He is the producer of choice for top-sellers like Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, and Boyz II Men. And if this weren't enough, following the tragic death of his comrade The NotoriousB.I.G., Puff Daddy overcame his grief and took center stage, dazzling us with his fancy footwork, irresistible hooks, and flashy videos.

So just how did one young, black, connectionless kid from East Harlem revolutionize an entire industry? This candid and moving book tells all. From Sean Comb's birth in the projects to his life as a devoted father, from the phenomenal success of his multiplatinum debut album No Way Out to the founding of his Daddy House charity and his latest business ventures, A FAMILY AFFAIR reveals how this sexy, enterprising talent minted the hot genre known as "hip-hop soul" and created a multimillion dollar empire.                                                        

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From the Publisher:

Since my children are about the same age as Puff Daddy, I was only marginally familiar with the rap/hip-hop music industry. I had heard all the bad stuff and very little of the good. As a person involved in my community and in particularly with young people, I decided to check out Sean "Puffy" Combs and get the "411" on what that scene is all about. I found this an extremely informative look at not only the young life of Sean Combs, but of the ins and outs of the hip-hop/rap music scene for the last ten years. While we find in these pages some of the violence and negative images that the media is so fond of focusing on, we also find a group of young, enterprising, African American entrepreneurs doing it "the American way" with hard work and sacrifice. Sean Combs and his crew are making their way in a difficult business with talent, creativity and pride. An inspirational story for all young people trying to make their way in the world today.

Tamu Aljuwani - Director, Educational Marketing

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In The Ghetto

Depending on whom you ask, the descriptions you hear of Harlem in the
seventies can vary wildly from person to person. Roughly eight million
people called one of the five boroughs of New York City home during that
decade, and despite the know-it-all attitudes that characterizes many Big
Apple residents, most know the city's famous uptown neighborhood only
through its reputation as a dangerous urban battleground.

Admittedly, Harlem had its share of problems at that time, especially
overcrowding--almost half a million people, predominantly
African-Americans, living in an area of six square miles. Many of the
buildings in Harlem had been erected in the early part of the century and
housed for far more tenants than they were designed for. A number of these
tenements were turned into rooming houses, with each room split into a
different apartment, often sheltering a whole family. The conditions in
such buildings were--well, less than ideal. There were also smaller
houses, brownstones intended for single families (but often rented out to
more), and newer apartment buildings designated as developments or housing
projects.

Like all but the wealthiest denizens of New York City, the people of
Harlem had to contend with smells of garbage, the constant noise of
wailing sirens and traffic, and the ceaseless flow of people. But many
wonderful historical events had also taken place in the community across
110th Street, which borders the top of Central Park. The Harlem
Renaissance of the 1920s made international celebrities of important
artists like poet Langston Hughes. The famous Cotton Club was a landmark
of the Appollo jazz age, and today, the celebrated Appollo theatre still
hosts many of the city's greatest musical shows. And Harlem has never hurt
for home grown talent, having nurtured diverse icons from wing
bandleader/composer Duke Ellington to the first commercially succesful rap
group, Sugar Hill Gang ("Rapper Delight")

This is the environment into which Sean "Puffy" Combs, the first of
Melvin and Janice Combs two children was born in 1970. His mother had made
a name for herself with her beautiful looks and poise. Now she was
parlaying her attractiveness into a budding modeling career. Since like
often attracts likes, small wonder that she and Melvin were drawn to each
other. He was a popular and well-liked guy in the neighborhood, with
charisma that rivaled Janices own. It wasn't long before they hooked up
romantically.

According to Janice, she was introduced to Melvin at a party in the
Bronx. She made no bones about the fact that he lived by the codes of the
street and engaged in activities of questionable legality to make a
living. But Melvin also had a playful side and loved to dance. Janice and
her friends often poked fun at him, because he was so proud of his fancy
footwork and fly gear.

Young Sean's memories of his father would be few. There were flashes he
could recall, affectionate gestures like his daddy tossing him in the air
and catching him on his third birthday party. But these precious few were
the only recollections he would have had a chance to accumulate. In 1973,
shortly after Janice gave birth to a second child, Melvin died. Sean was
just three years old. For many years he believed that his father had been
killed in an auto accident. It wasn't until he was in his teens that he
discovered the truth.

Childhood in Harlem had taught Sean about the realities of life on the
urban streets. The Combs's were the only family around who had owned a
Mercedes Benz, and as an adolescent, Sean began to observe disparities
between the event--as he knew them--surrounding his father's death and
stories other people told back in the previous decade. Sean began to
suspect his father hadn't been the most conventional of breadwinners.

He went to the library and began rooting around to find the news of the
day when his father died back in 1973. He soon learned that his father's
death hadn't been as innocent as he'd been led to believe. There had been
a fair share of ink devoted to Melvin Comb's demise at the time, for while
running around on Central Park West, he'd been shot in the head.

Sean took this new knowledge of his real heritage in stride. His father
had lived by the codes of the street, and died by them, too. The nature of
the shadowy order in the ghettos was such that few men stayed at the top
of the totem pole for long, and Sean understood that a shift in supremacy
wasn't unusual. The important thing was, even though events surrounding
his father's death were different than he'd been led to believe, his dad's
character wasn't. Perhaps he'd been running numbers or selling drugs to
pay the bills, but people still remembered Melvin Combs as a good man. He
certainly wasn't a gangster. A hustler, maybe, but one with a heart.

Until he turned twelve, Sean lived with his grandmother in one of
countless government subsidized housing developments. What with a gorgeous
mother and showboating father, he'd inherited a bug for show business,
and would model as a baskin robbins ice-cream boy while still in his youth.

Meanwhile he was turning into a budding entreprenauer as well. Like many
kids in the neighborhood, he enlisted to be a paperboy. Every kid was
allowed to have only one single delivery route. Sean got a bunch of his
cronies to sign up for routes of their own, then bought them out and took
over so he'd be earning income from multiple routes.

But he had his scruples. A devout catholic, he attended church regularly
and became an altar boy. He thanked his grandmother for emphasizing the
role of God in his life. He admired the fact that God loved everybody, and
he tried to follow suit. "Whether you're Catholic, Protestant, white,
black, gay, straight, [God's] going to love you [because] that's all he
knows," Combs would remark years later in Vox magazine.

His grandmother's apartment wasn't in the roughest of neighborhoods, but
Sean still learned to be tough early on. On one occasion, his grandmother
sent him down to the store to buy her a pack of cigarettes. Another kid
approached him and demanded that Sean turn over the money he was carrying.
Thinking he was tough enough to stand his ground, Sean refused to turn
over the cash and put up his dukes.

The fight didn't last long. Sean's assailant punched him in his handsome
mug a few times and walked off with the prize. That day, young Combs
learned a valuable lesson that would serve him well: don't get into a
fight if you don't think you're going to come out on the winning side. But
he also realized something essential about his own character. Despite the
pummeling he'd taken, Sean didn't back down and throw in the towel. He was
a born fighter, willing to take his licks for something he believed in.

He counted his mother, who succesfully raised him and his younger sister
without remarrying, and boxing legend Muhammed Ali as his idols. So it
hardly comes as a surprise that while he continues to get into scrapes
with other boys, Sean learned how to deal with them better.

One day he came home and cried to his mother that another kid had battered
him and made off with his skateboard. His mother turned him around and
told him he had to march back outside and retrieve his skateboard--even if
it meant he had to use physical force--before he could come back into the
house. She was just reinforcing an important belief Sean had already
become familiar with: If you're going to be a survivor, you can't be
afraid to fight for the things you hold dear.

But the resourceful preteen had also learned from earlier beatings. He
didn't go back and get into a fight with his persecutor himself; he
enlisted an older, bigger boy exact justice on his behalf. Early on, he
was growing to appreciate the advantages of a bustling circle of loved
ones and acquaintances.

Although Janice also owned a home in the community of Mount Vernon, New
York, she opted not to raise her children there. Atleast not immediatley.
Years later Sean would appreciate her decision. Janice didn't want her
children to start their lives in the relative comfort of the suburbs, for
growing up in Harlem would imbue them with resilience and resourcefulness
that comes from a childhood in the city. But strength wasn't the only
asset young Sean would acquire on the streets of Harlem.

The Roots of Hip-Hop

As in any significant art or culture movement, it is impossible to narrow
the origins of the music known as hip-hop down to a single person or
geographic region. A number of early pioneers can rightfully stake a claim
to being the inventor of the genre; Kool DJ Herc, Lovebug Starski,
Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and many others.

During the seventies, disco was the sound of urban America. And in New
York, Pete DJ Jones was the premier disc jockey mixing records with
flawless execution, maintaining a constant beat for dancing. Meanwhile an
MC--JT Hollywood and Lovebug Starski among the earliest--kept the crowd
pumping with call-and-response chants and exhortations to have a good time.

But teenagers in poorer neighborhoods like Harlem and the South Bronx
didn't have the cash and threads required to hear the likes of Pete DJ
Jones spinning the pricey mid- or downtown Manhattan clubs like Justine's
McCoys, and Nell Gwynn's. So they improvised. The requirements were
simple: a pair of turntables, some records, a mic, and a cheap PA system.
House and block parties sprang up throughout New York ghettos; power was
often jacked by plugging into streetlights. A legion of neighborhood DJs
...

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