News: The Rise & Fall of Bad Boy Records
Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 12:00AM
As hip-hop enters a new era of business ventures, endorsement deals and growth within the music industry, SOHH reflects on the highs and lows of the rap empires who opened the door for today's black entrepreneurs.
Bad Boy Records
Founded in the early 1990's by rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, the success of Bad Boy Records began as hip-hop was introduced to the late, great Notorious B.I.G. and went on to revolutionize the industry by adding rap vocals to R&B remixes. As time progressed, Bad Boy helped develop the careers of various past and present entertainers including Faith Evans, Ma$e, 112, The LOX, Shyne and many more and Diddy went on to take over the clothing, fashion and fragrance industries.
After his climb from a non-paying internship to becoming an A&R executive at Uptown Records, Combs was abruptly terminated in 1993 by then CEO Andre Harrell--reportedly due to his own difficulty to work with. Upon his firing, Arista Records chief Clive Davis took advantage of Combs' free agent status and agreed to bankroll him his own vanity label to be operated through Arista and its BMG parent. A handful of the acts who had been signed to Uptown via Combs just prior to his dismissal were dropped from the label; among them were Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) and Craig Mack, both of whom Combs would take with him to his new company. (Time)
The biggest hip-hop impresario of the mid-'90s, Sean Combs -- known as Puff Daddy both here and in the world of rap until his professional name change to P. Diddy, then just Diddy -- created a multi-million-dollar industry around Bad Boy Entertainment, with recordings by the Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack, Faith Evans, 112, and Total all produced and masterminded by Combs himself. Responsible for over $100 million in total record sales and named ASCAP's 1996 Songwriter of the Year, Combs was, on the other hand, criticized by many in the hip-hop community for watering down the sound of the underground. (All Music)
The Notorious B.I.G.
Changing his primary stage name from Biggie Smalls to the Notorious B.I.G., the newly committed rapper made his recording debut on a 1993 remix of Mary J. Blige's single "Real Love." He soon guested on another Blige remix, "What's the 411?," and contributed his first solo cut, "Party and Bullsh*t," to the soundtrack of the film Who's the Man? Now with a considerable underground buzz behind him, the Notorious B.I.G. delivered his debut album, Ready to Die, in September 1994. Its lead single, "Juicy," went gold, and the follow-up smash, "Big Poppa," achieved platinum sales and went Top Ten on the pop and R&B charts. Biggie's third single, "One More Chance," tied Michael Jackson's "Scream" for the highest debut ever on the pop charts; it entered at number five en route to an eventual peak at number two, and went all the way to number one on the R&B side. (All Music)
Best known as Puff Daddy's favorite sidekick, Mase secured his place as a Bad Boy label favorite through a series of guest appearances on hit singles by other artists. By the time he issued his debut album, the Bad Boy promotional machine had effectively already made him a star. His flow was slow and relaxed, and his raps often unabashedly simple, which helped make him especially popular with the younger segment of Puff Daddy's pop-rap audience (they could understand him and rap along). (All Music)
The LOX -- an acronym for Living Off Experience -- are a Yonkers, NY-based rap trio who worked their way up through the Bad Boy training camp, writing and rapping on hits by the likes of Puff Daddy, the Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey before releasing their debut album in early 1998. Sheek (Shawn Jacobs), Jadakiss (Jayson Phillips), and Styles (David Styles) began rapping together in their childhood. By the time they reached their late teens, they had settled on the LOX name. Eventually, they met Mary J. Blige. Impressed by their demo tape, Blige forwarded the tape to Sean "Puffy" Combs. (All Music)
Bad Boy Achievements
Success Outside Of Bad Boy Rappers
Sean "Puffy" Combs began branching out Bad Boy during 1995, adding platinum R&B acts Faith Evans and Total (both of whom were connected to B.I.G., Evans as his wife and Total as his former backing vocal group) plus another platinum seller, 112, in 1996. He also produced for many outside artists (including Aretha Franklin, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, TLC, SWV, and Lil' Kim) (All Music)
Sean John Clothing
In 1998, Combs started a clothing line, Sean John. It was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2000, and won in 2004. It is a clothing and fragrance line owned by hip-hop mogul Sean Combs and supermarket mogul Ron Burkle. The apparel company takes its name from Combs' first and middle given names. People representing the brand include Combs himself, musicians such as Nelly, T.I., Fabolous, The Game, Wisin & Yandel and Daddy Yankee, athletes including Dwyane Wade, plus fashion models Tyson Beckford and Kevin Navayne. (Wall Street Journal)
As of October 2007, Combs has inked a multi-year deal, in which he'll help develop the Ciroc brand, one of Diageo PLC's super-premium Vodka lines, for a 50-50 share in the profits. The agreement is the latest in which a celebrity is going beyond the typical role of endorser to share in a brand's rise and fall. Diageo said the agreement could be worth more than $100 million for Combs and his company, Sean Combs Enterprises, over the course of the deal, depending on how well the brand performs. Since then, he has launched multiple ventures for Ciroc, many of which were featured during the 2008 presidential election. (Wikipedia)
Films, Sports & Food Industry
Combs owns an upscale restaurant chain called Justin's, named after his son. The current restaurant is in Atlanta; the original New York location closed in September 2007. He is the designer of the green Dallas Mavericks alternate jersey. Combs also starred in a film that was shown on ABC called A Raisin in the Sun in addition to movies like Made. (Wikipedia)
The Notorious B.I.G.'s Death
In September 1996, however, Tupac Shakur was shot and killed by unknown assailants; just six months later, in March of 1997, B.I.G. himself was killed in the same fashion. Just three weeks later, his second album debuted at number one and was eventually certified six times platinum. The single "Hypnotize" also hit number one and stayed on the charts for months after B.I.G. was killed. Though Combs had been preparing his own solo debut, under the name Puff Daddy, he quit working for several months out of grief for his longtime friend. (All Music)
New York City Nightclub Shooting & Trial
More controversy started brewing when his relationship with singer/actress Jennifer Lopez was made public around the same time. Engagement rumors haunted them for a few months, but the real problems began when they were present at a shooting in a New York City club that December. The couple was brought in for questioning and eventually both faced charges for illegal possession of a firearm. Meanwhile, rapper Shyne was indicted for the incident, but Puffy was not dismissed because of the weapons charge. His trial date for the club shooting was finally set, while October found two new lawsuits facing the rapper. First, his driver sued for three million dollars due to personal injury and stress, followed by a $1.8 million suit from the club owner stemming from poor business following the shooting. Though Lopez initially supported Puffy, she broke off their relationship on Valentine's Day 2001. (All Music)
Arista Distribution Conflict
Combs took a serious blow in the spring of 2002 when Arista stopped distributing Bad Boy and took Evans with them. A collection of Bad Boy remixes entitled We Invented the Remix became his last album for Arista. 112 attempted to also jump ship to Def Jam, but a restraining order was filed before the group could make a clean break. (All Music)
Although many argue Bad Boy Records will never reach its peak previously held in the mid-1990's, Diddy has continued to build his brand by not only focusing on the music, but venturing outward to recruit new, fresh faces amongst the likes of R&B singers like Cassie and has also made a name for himself on the small screen.
Bad Boy saw its fortunes improve in 2005, with the success of releases from new signees: Cassie and Yung Joc (both of whom would score top five singles/debut albums). Also in 2006, Bad Boy hit paydirt with "Making The Band 3's" Danity Kane, whose debut album topped the charts at #1 (the labels first chart topping album since the Bad Boys II soundtrack three years prior), and spun off a top five single. Their sophomore album, Welcome to the Dollhouse also debuted at #1, and containted the group's second top ten single "Damaged". Diddy also signed Day26 and Donnie Klang to the label. (Billboard)[Check out The Rise & Fall of Death Row Records.]