Sean P Diddy Puff Daddy Combs held forth Saturday night at Clive Davis’s dinner for 50 minutes reviewing his life and career, as well as his thoughts on the Grammys and how he says the music business has disrespected black music.
The latter isn’t true at all. The former was a Disney-fied version of a complicated life that often embraced violence.
Combs made a wild statement about Michael Jackson making “Thriller,” which won 8 Grammys, after not getting any for his previous album, “Off the Wall,” in 1979. This alone made no sense. The implication is that no black music received awards in 1979. But Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” album was nominated for Album of the Year, and records by Summer and Earth Wind & Fire received multiple nominations in the general categories. Jackson got two nominations for his song “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough.” Why he didn’t win had nothing to do with disrespect. And four years later he became the King of Pop.
Diddy’s speech was plaintive. At one point, he was pleading “we are artists, we need awards.” But the fact is, despite his entrepreneurial success, he is not a recording artist. He can’t write or sing. His biggest hit production, “I’ll Be Missing You,” is just a reworking of Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” with a rap twist. Most of rap is based on sampling or covers. There is very little original music. Rap fans hate it when I say this, but that’s the case.
The sampling issue is important to note because those kinds of records are not going to win awards. Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” is a good example. The whole thing is based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things.” The little bit that’s original doesn’t constitute a whole new song.
Also, hip hip and rap tends to be full of foul language. And that’s not going to cut it. Songs themed around the f word and “bitch this, bitch that” are not going to get Grammy Awards. Hip hop awards, yes. But not mainstream accolades.
Many of the great writers of popular music were and are respected. Last night two of the very best– Alicia Keys and John Legend– were front and center. A legend, Smokey Robinson, had the Staples center audience singing along to “My Girl.” Diddy is doing them a disservice.
And then there was the sanitized version of Diddy in Wonderland. In 1999, Combs was charged with assault when he and his bodyguards walked into his office of Steve Stoute at Universal Records in midtown Manhattan on the afternoon of April 16 and severely beat him. You can click here to read Diddy’s History of Violence.
So listen, I always liked Sean Combs. He can be charming and courtly. He’s certainly been very smart in making money and marketing himself. But let’s have a major reality check. And his weird threat that the Recording Academy has 365 days to fix itself…or else? Or what? Go back to that link above.