Way Back Wednesday: Sean "Puffy" Combs

A weekly video spotlight on artists who came up pre-'00s

Back again for another edition of Way Back Wednesday, in which we offer a look at some of your favorite artists who came up pre-'00s. 

Sean "Puffy" Combs has gone by many different aliases over the years, so to avoid confusion, I'll be referring to him as Puffy (my favorite one) in this edition of Way Back Wednesday. Puffy has been working on his rap craft since 1990 and he's honed it well, if not often in recent years. He pretty much owned the market on hip-hop and R&B during the mid-'90s, and had his hand in writing, producing or appearing in countless hits. Puffy just released his first new outing in five years, MMM, on November 4. Whether you're a fan of his new jamz or not, Puffy's reach and influence cannot be denied. Join me as we take a look back at his rise to legendary status. 

Background: Sean Combs was born in Harlem, New York, but spent his childhood in Mount Vernon. Son to a model and drug dealer who worked for the powerful Frank Lucas, Combs earned his stage name from his family in his younger days because he was said to "huff and puff" a lot. He added the 'Daddy' later. Puffy was a great athlete and played quarterback for his high-school team. He also got good grades and after graduating in 1990, attended Howard University, though he eventually decided it wasn't his thing and dropped out after two years. He got his first big break interning at Uptown Records and did so well, in fact, he was hired on and promoted to talent director. It was in this position that Puffy became responsible for developing two of our generation's most successful R&B acts — Jodeci and Mary J. Blige — not to mention many others. His next promotion was to Vice President and for a while, he kept Uptown Records rolling. All of that came to a screeching halt however when Uptown's founder, Andre Harrell, fired Puffy, though it proved to be a blessing in disguise. Puffy went on to found Bad Boy Records as a joint venture with Arista Records and the first act he signed was The Notorious B.I.G. Puffy was going to be just fine.

Notable Albums: During the mid-to-late '90s, if you wanted make a hit record, you called on Puff Daddy. Simple as that. He was known for tapping samples from '80s rock songs and transforming the results into gold. His production style and qualities helped mold the sound of modern hip-hop. He didn't event sampling, but he perfected and streamlined the technique. 'Course, he caught some flack for it, was criticized for commercializing hip-hop too much and overusing samples, but the fans didn't seem bothered one bit.

In 1997, he released his debut full-length, No Way Out, as Puffy Daddy & The Family. His first recorded output was ostensibly one big collaboration album but regardless, No Way Out proved a significant success. First single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" dominated the airwaves and spent six weeks at No. 1, but that was just the start of Combs' chart strangle-hold. In 1997, Bad Boy Records held the No. 1 spot in 22 of the 52 weeks that year. Four hit singles followed — "Been Around the World," "It's All About the Benjamins," "Victory" and "I'll Be Missing You." But none carried more significance or emotional depth than "I'll Be Missing You," his farewell ode to best friend and labelmate, Notorious B.I.G. No Way Out earned Combs five nominations at the 40th annual Grammys in 1998, taking home top honors for Best Rap Album; it's since sold more than 8 million copies. 

Studio albums released before 2000: 
No Way Out (1997)
Forever (1999)

Puffy is also a solid actor, too, and has been pursuing this face of his career more as the years have passed. He has some classic one-liners Get Him to the Greek, his performance in arguably the best part of the film, even though he basically played himself. Here's some more movies you can find Puffy flexing his drama chops. 

Made (2001)
Monster's Ball (2001)
Seamless (2005)
Carlito's Way: Rise to Power (2005)
A Raisin in the Sun (2008)
Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Draft Day (2014)
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

"Can't Nobody Hold Me Down"
"I'll Be Missing You"
"It's All About The Benjamins"
"Been Around The World"
"Satisfy You"
"I Need A Girl (Part 1)"
Jodeci, "Come and Talk To Me" Remix (Produced by Puffy)
Total, "Can't See You" (Produced by Puffy)
112, "Only You" Remix (Produced Puffy)
Mariah Carey, "Honey" (Produced Puffy)


Where does Puffy's legacy sit with you? Were you among those who didn't appreciate his heavy sampling or did you own every Bad Boy record that was released? Did you get his new album? Tell us below.

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