Turns out we had it all wrong.
Remember back in 1995 at the Source Awards, when Death Row records CEO Suge Knight walked up on stage and asked if artists wanted a different kind of management that didn’t include the executive producer “all in the videos, all on the records… dancing,” something that they should get with his record label.
Well, it appears that Knight wasn’t talking about Sean “Diddy” Combs.
All this time, we thought Diddy — the dancing executive producer who was in damn near every video he executive produced — was who Suge Knight, the 6-foot-2, 265-pound ex-football player often accused of extorting rappers, was talking about.
During a 2017 “Drink Champs” podcast interview with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, Diddy noted that he and Suge were friends who used to hang out whenever he was in Cali. So even he was shocked that the notorious enforcer, who is serving a 28-year prison sentence for a fatal hit-and-run (he crashed his pickup into two men, killing one) called him out.
With the 1995 Source Awards being in New York, Diddy’s hometown, the head of Bad Boy Entertainment said he wasn’t intimidated, that had wolves with him who were ready to go whenever he gave the word. Diddy claims that later that night he stepped to Suge to ask what executive producer he was talking about, and Suge punked out. It wasn’t Diddy, Suge said. It was Jermaine Dupri, the Atlanta producer.
What would happen over the next few years would be a full-on war between the West and East coasts in which Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. would lose their lives. And for years we believed the aggressor was Knight. But what if the real villain was standing right in front of us the whole time? What if the real thug was the one who promoted peace that night at the Source Awards? What if the real dangerous one was the one “all in the videos, all on the records…dancing,” and we never noticed?
Until Cassie’s lawsuit.
For thirty-five pages, Cassie’s lawyers mapped out an alleged history of rape, violence, sex trafficking, human trafficking, sexual battery and sexual assault. The lawsuit was so damaging that it came with a trigger warning. The outline of Diddy we all thought we knew was now filled in with colors so dark that the man long accused of not paying his artists settled the lawsuit out of court the very next day.
Was Diddy’s public persona very different from his private one? In public he presented as the flamboyant music exec who acted as a fun-loving, often-smiling purveyor of peace. He was the hard-driving boss who once made aspiring artists walk to get him a Junior’s cheesecake during his hit reality show, “Making the Band,” because he was once an upstart who was willing to do anything to make it. We were all sold the image of the motivated intern turned mogul who literally pulled himself up by his Jodeci-style boot straps.
Could we have had it all wrong?
But even more deafening than our bewilderment is the silence of the industry. Why haven’t his friends in the music industry, every artist who has worked with Diddy, all of the celebrities who have known him during his 40 years in the business not come forward on his behalf?
Once when I was a boy, my father and I were on a walk. We came upon a sign posted along a high school fence that read: “No parking on the grass.” I laughed because the sign seemed pointless. Surely people knew not to park on the grass. My dad asked what was so funny, and I told him that the sign was stupid and that it would’ve been like having a sign that read, “Don’t eat the dirt.” My dad laughed and said it was just the opposite, that “people must’ve parked on the grass or else there wouldn’t be a sign,” he said. “Signs are usually created because people don’t know not to do the obvious thing.”
I think about this story whenever there is a simple protest saying; sayings like “Black Lives Matter” or “believe women” are needed because people are too stupid not to park on the grass. Since the beginning of time, women have come forward with incidents of sexual assault and abuse and there have been folks, both men and women, who have worked tirelessly to claim that those stories weren’t true.
And yet no one, not one person of any significant stature, not one person with a voice in the industry has come to Diddy’s aid claiming that it’s all lies. At this point, that’s the expected stunt, yet it appears no one wants to take up that mantle. In contrast, after we watched Will Smith wrongfully smack the taste out of Chris Rock’s mouth, even the original Aunt Viv, actor Janet Hubert, who at one point hated Smith, came to the Fresh Prince’s defense.
Tory Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion in the foot. There was video of her limping and blood, and he still had defenders who were running to say that this was all a setup. Even after he was convicted and sentenced to prison, there are still people saying Lanez is innocent and Megan is lying about being shot. Singer Mario and speaker-of-words-into-a-microphone (not sure if what she does can be considered rap) Iggy Azalea even wrote character letters on Lanez’s behalf.
“I deeply appreciate the person he is and have never witnessed him lose his temper or raise his voice at a woman. He’s always been incredibly respectful of me and I refuse to believe that he would do anything in malice, especially to a woman,” she wrote.
Despite mountains of evidence and years of alleged sexual assault claims against him, Harvey Weinstein still was able to drum up A-list support, with Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone, actor Tony Denison, fashion designer Donna Karan and director Woody Allen coming to his defense. Granted this might not be the best list of folks to speak on your behalf, considering that Stone was accused of sexual assault in 2017, and, well, Woody Allen, who has not only been accused of molesting his adopted daughter (claims Allen would deny) but also would later marry his stepdaughter who is 35 years younger than him. Donna Karan claimed in her defense of Weinstein that women’s wearing of provocative clothing was asking for “trouble.”
“You look at everything all over the world today, you know, and how women are dressing and, you know, what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”
Karan would later apologize.
I know this list of Weinstein defenders feels embarrassing, but the point is even a notorious offender who may never see another day as a free man still had a group of famous people come to his defense.
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are still working to undo the damage they have done to their reputations by coming to the defense of “That ’70s Show” co-star Danny Masterson. The actors both wrote character witness statements defending Masterson, who was accused of drugging and raping two women. Both have since apologized, claiming they support victims.
The point isn’t that Diddy should be defended, I just find it telling and alarming that no one, not one of Diddy’s alleged celebrity friends, not one of his musical acts, not one of the people whose careers he helped get off the ground have come out in support of his character or tried to denounce the claims against him. The silence speaks volumes.
We know now, after watching the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary, that this level of alleged abuse requires complicit participants who are willing to come forward, and they almost never do. And the rumors have been swelling around the famed music producer for years. For years there have been whispers about Diddy’s abusive treatment of staff and women he’s been linked to. There have been rumors about his overly excessive lifestyle that was equal parts Gatsby and Greek mythology. Rumors abounded that the parties he attended were just one large pulsating, drug-fueled hedonistic indulgence.
For years, former Bad Boy bodyguard Gene Deal told anybody who would listen that Sean “Diddy” Combs was not the man he appeared to be. Deal would paint stories of a cartoon villain who sought ultimate control. It probably didn’t help Diddy’s villainous character arc that for a few years, when he was still going by Puff Daddy, he had a man servant that even carried an umbrella over his head on hot days. And singer Jaguar Wright went viral years ago after she pointed out all of the people with ties to Diddy who died under mysterious circumstances.
But it all seemed fictional, almost too unreal to be believed; like Osama bin Laden being a cave dwelling millionaire. Or Donald Trump being a bona fide, world-class, Olympic-level teller of untruths and yet still winning the presidency.
Then came Cassie’s lawsuit.
Noted in the 35-page missive was one claim that was so dastardly it was straight out of a comic book. Apparently Diddy and Cassie were on a break in 2012 when the singer began hanging out with rapper Kid Cudi. Diddy was reportedly so upset that he threatened to blow up Kid Cudi’s car.
“In February 2012 … Mr. Combs told Ms. Ventura [Casandra “Cassie” Ventura] that he was going to blow up Kid Cudi’s car and that he wanted to ensure that Kid Cudi was home with his friends when it happened,” the complaint says. “Around that time, Kid Cudi’s car exploded in his driveway.”
Cudi’s rep confirmed Cassie’s account to The New York Times.
Diddy, of course, denies any of that ever happened, including blowing up a car in Kid Cudi’s driveway. But it happened. A car exploded.
Each day since Cassie’s lawsuit leaves another breadcrumb to add to the trail of allegations and rumors, scattered amid facts like Diddy temporarily stepping aside from his role as chairman of Revolt. Each day is another day for someone, anyone to come out against the horrendous claims to possibly paint Diddy in another light, and every day the silence of those who want nothing to do with this level of toxicity is the loudest voice in the room.