Sean 'Diddy' Combs, the rap mogul facing a web of sex crime allegations

Maggy Donaldson - Agence France-Presse
Sean 'Diddy' Combs, the rap mogul facing a web of sex crime allegations
Rapper and producer Sean Combs, popularly known as Diddy
Diddy via Instagram

NEW YORK, United States — Once hip hop's flashy impresario credited with commercializing the genre, Sean "Diddy" Combs has seen his star plunge as federal authorities raid his homes amid sex trafficking accusations and assault lawsuits.

The legal pressure and heavily publicized bicoastal operation, which saw armed agents enter his sprawling luxury properties in Miami and Los Angeles, mark a rapid downfall for the powerful mogul who in recent years has vied to rebrand as "Brother Love."

The 54-year-old founded the Bad Boy record label in 1993, with proteges including the late Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige, ushering hip hop into the global lifestyle brand it is today.

The artist, who's gone by various monikers including Puff Daddy and P Diddy, was widely credited as key to hip hop's journey from the streets to the bottle-service club.

Over the decades he's amassed vast wealth not least due to his ventures in the liquor industry.

But despite his efforts to cultivate an image of a smooth party kingpin and business magnate, multiple lawsuits describe Combs as a violent man who used his celebrity to prey on his victims.

He has no major convictions but has long been trailed by allegations of physical assault, dating back well into the 1990s.

Late last year the floodgates opened after singer Cassie, whose real name is Casandra Ventura, alleged Combs subjected her to more than a decade of coercion by physical force and drugs as well as a 2018 rape.

The pair met when Ventura was 19 and he was 37, after which he signed her to his label and they began a romantic relationship.

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The bombshell suit was quickly settled out of court, but a string of similarly lurid sexual assault claims followed — including one in December by a woman who alleged Combs and others gang-raped her when she was 17.

Combs has vehemently denied all accusations against him.

US Homeland Security officials have not said why the recent raids were carried out, and no federal charges have been leveled against Combs whose lawyers called the searches an "unprecedented ambush."

But the coordinated operation suggests a serious case may be developing.

Dark shadow over global fame

Born Sean John Combs on November 4, 1969 in Harlem, the artist entered the industry as an intern in 1990 at Uptown Records where he eventually became a talent director.

He gained a reputation as a party planner, which would be central to his brand as his fame rose.

In 1991 he promoted a celebrity basketball game and concert at the City College of New York that left nine people dead after a stampede.

The event was over capacity by the thousands and resulted in a string of lawsuits, with Combs blamed for hiring inadequate security.

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He was fired from Uptown, and founded his own label, Bad Boy Records. Thus began a quick ascent to the top of East Coast hip hop.

His disciple The Notorious B.I.G. became hip hop's king following the release of his landmark debut album "Ready to Die" in 1994, up until his shock murder in 1997.

Combs boasted a number of major signed acts and production collaborations with the likes of Blige, Usher, Lil' Kim, TLC, Mariah Carey, and Boyz II Men.

He was also a Grammy-winning rapper in his own right, debuting with the chart-topping single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" and his album "No Way Out."

The single "I'll Be Missing You" was a tribute to Biggie and an instant hit, with other major tracks including "It's All About The Benjamins" and "Been Around the World."

He built an image as a brash hustler with unapologetic swagger, a major producer who also ventured into Hollywood, reality television and fashion and had high-profile romantic links with the likes of Jennifer Lopez.

For more than a decade beginning in 1998, his lavish White Parties were the toast of the pop culture party circuit.

In recent years he legally changed his middle name to Love, released "The Love Album: Off the Grid," endeavored further into philanthropy and did a media blitz casting himself as a wiser man in his "Love Era."

But his dark history of violence and serious misconduct has quietly haunted his fame — and now might eclipse it.

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