Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs - Inside
Sean 'Diddy' Combs accepts the President's Merit Award onstage during the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs on January 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Diddy Reinvents His Mantra “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” For Another Decade Of Innovation

"I never thought that I would get to this point right here where my peers would honor me."

“I met him when he was Puffy.” - Clive Davis

A man of many names, one thing has remained steadfast: Sean Love Combs has fulfilled goals and dreams while remaining true to form. This was the consensus on Saturday evening (Jan. 25), when the media mogul accepted the Salute to Industry Icon Award at the Pre-Grammy Gala sponsored by The Recording Academy and music industry veteran Clive Davis.

At the Beverly Hilton, 332 tables were filled with family, friends, peers, media professionals, record label giants, entertainers and more who’s who in town for Sunday's Grammy Awards (Jan. 26). On the main stage, the musical melting pot of the room was represented by legacy acts like Carlos Santana, Cyndi Lauper, Beck, Wyclef Jean, Oscar-nominated actress Cynthia Ervio (who performed a tribute to Janet Jackson in honor of Rhythm Nation turning 30), Miguel, Khalid, Chance the Rapper, Brandi Carlile, and John Legend.

Touching various genres throughout his decade-spanning year, it’s only fitting that the musical acts represented the modes of sound that Combs has touched. From Rock N’ Roll to hip-hop to R&B to even professing his admiration for country music, the multi-hyphenate affirmed that his limit within the industry would know no constraint. To take a trip down memory lane with the artists he's worked with down to his son King Combs' performance of "I'll Be Missing You," artists like Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, and Lil' Kim paid homage in song to the mogul.

“When people ask me did you ever know you’d get to a certain point, I always tell them yes but I never thought that I would get to this point right here where my peers would honor me, show me this love,” he said. At five years old, an unsuspecting Combs would soon realize that a “plastic record player” in place of a coveted bike would change the course of his life. After "20,000" spins of James Brown’s “I Got Ants In My Pants,” Combs planted the seed that would become a fruitful impact on the music industry.

Although the 50-year-old said he had dreams of playing in the NFL, a broken leg snapped his ambitions and led him to Howard University where he met his longtime business partner Harve Pierre and Mark Pitts (RCA's president of urban music). Keeping in mind his love for music and wanting to become a record executive from witnessing how label owners carried themselves similar to drug dealers from his neighborhood, Combs began the long road to success.

While the tribute was in his honor, Combs turned his attention to Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records and the company where Combs entered the industry as an ambitious young adult to then being given the tools to strike iron while it’s hot on his own. “I’m only standing up here because you gave me the chance, you gave me the opportunity,” Combs said. “But most importantly what we all have to do, as a black man you took me underneath your wing. He was patient with me. You taught me, you talked to me, you taught me about the game and you taught me what it was to become a record man.”

Then Combs studied the blueprint that was mapped out by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. When Combs viewed Mahogany, which was directed by Gordy, he understood the lanes outside of music that can allow one to make a global influence, “and the value and importance of black culture and the importance it was going to have on the world.” In Gordy's recognition, Combs referred to him as a unicorn who “empowered me at another level.”

From that moment on, Combs established Bad Boy Records while still working at Uptown but was fired by Harrell for his hot-head antics around the office. Facing a roadblock, Combs phoned record exec L.A. Reid where they both expressed their frustration with that point in their career. Taking a trip down to Atlanta, Reid and famed record producer Dallas Austin introduced Combs to Clive Davis after he expressed establishing his own label. The rest is still history in the making.

With these accolades under his belt, Combs now sets his vision on revamping the Grammys’ image pertaining to hip-hop and music rooted in black culture. The three-time Grammy Award winner stated the entity treats the genre as if it’s not responsible for some of music’s greatest moments and innovations. “Hip-hop is going to go down in history as the culture that said, ‘We need to own our sh*t,” Combs asserted. “And for me it led to great success. It gave me the chance to do Ciroc, Sean John, Revolt, open three charter schools in New York.”

He then continued to point his message at the Recording Academy by calling out their neglect of the genre. “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be,” he said. “So right now in this current situation, it is not a revelation. This thing’s been going on. It’s not just going on in music. It’s going on in film, it's going on in sports, it's going on around the world. And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us. And that stops right now.”

Combs called on his peers in the room to help make that change and understand the olympic-size swimming pool of power that artists have to take control and revamp a longstanding tradition. He also dedicated his award to albums that deserved the Grammys' highest honors: Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, Prince's 1999, Beyoncé's Lemonade, Missy Elliott's The Real World, Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle, Kanye West's Graduation, and Nas' Illmatic.

The mind that can’t stop, won’t stop poses one question, especially with his mission for the Grammys in consideration: what will his next move be?

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After warming up the crowd with performances of  "Work," "Plain Jane" and his new single "Value," he brought out MadeinTYO to perform a short number. Shortly after, DaBaby amped up the crowd with a high-energy set with performances of "Bop," "Suge," and more alongside Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment artists Stunna 4 Vegas and Rich Dunk.

As the Hennessy specialty drinks flowed and bites made their rounds, some of music and sports' biggest stars stopped by the event to enjoy the fanfare including Saweetie, Dave East, and others. Scroll through more images down below to see what you missed.

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(L-R) God Shammgod, Jadakiss, and Russ Bengston at the PUMA x LeagueFits Panel discussion.
Courtesy of PUMA

Chuck D, Dave East, Jadakiss & God Shammgod Talk Sneaker Culture And Public Enemy’s Legacy At PUMA Pop-Up

In celebration of Def Jam and PUMA Hoop's latest sneaker release, the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy sat down with writer Russ Bengtson, rappers Jadakiss, Dave East, and basketball street legend God Shammgod for a live panel discussion during the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend (Feb. 15).

Held inside the League Fits Lounge powered by the PUMA Hoops pop-up, the four panelists chatted about the new PUMA Sky LX and PUMA Clyde kicks, Public Enemy's legacy and the rise of hip-hop and sneaker culture. Jadakiss, East, Chuck D, and Shammgod all pledged their allegiance to the rapidly growing culture.

"I'm a sneaker addict. Until I die, I think I'm always going to be excited with new sneakers," said East. "I like knowing I'm going home and there are sneakers that I ordered that are waiting for me. These [PUMA] sneakers are dope and I'm happy to be here with Chuck D sharing this moment."

"It’s a form of accomplishment like I made it," said Jadakiss when asked about his thoughts on the collaboration and speaking on the panel with the hip-hop legend. "How many years I spent listening to Public Enemy and for Chuck D to be a fan and acknowledge me as a constituent, a colleague, and contemporary in some form is a feeling that no money or accolade can compare to."

 

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The Chi today debuting the new PE - PUMA Collab. Talking Hip Hop + B-Ball w @jadakiss @daveeast @leaguefits @pumahoops at 4:30 Get em at puma.com 💥💥💥 ..... ...... ...... #nbaallstar #chuckd #pumahoops #sneakers #kicks #collection #fightthepower #fearofablackplanet #publicenemy #publicenemyradio #hiphop #daveeast #jadakiss

A post shared by Chuck D 🎤 (@mrchuckd_pe) on Feb 15, 2020 at 12:53pm PST

Chuck D also shared some gems and stories from his time when Public Enemy's popularity skyrocketed in the early '90s. Public Enemy became one of the most popular groups in hip-hop history for their socio-political rhymes and in-your-face attitude. Many rappers strive to be the most popular artist in the game but for Chuck D and his band of brothers, their perspective was different.

"My goal wasn't to be like the popular group that everybody loved. We wanted to see groups and artists around us do well," Chuck D recalls. "We wanted to see young people do well. We were already older and we weren't trying to impress anybody."

When Public Enemy made their debut there was nothing like the militaristic rap crew from Long Island. Their music criticized the media and spoke heavily on the plights that blacks faced in the United States.

"We represented a fu**ed up situation. It was a wilder time in hip-hop before records in 1978 and 1979, and we saw sh*t for three to four years," said Chuck D about the inspiration behind the group’s formation. "Hip-hop came out of those ashes to speak out against a lot of that bullsh*t and didn't get an answer to years later."

 

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NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. 🗽

A post shared by God Shammgod (@godshammgod12) on Feb 15, 2020 at 4:22pm PST

As most people thought Public Enemy were too aggressive and hated the white community, Chuck D reminded the audience that wasn't the case. "We didn’t come against society like f**k white people. No, this is our story [that] you need to hear instead of that bullsh*t story," Chuck D said.

At the end of the discussion, Chuck D gave props to his three guests for their contributions to the culture; He shared how he enjoys playing East's music all the time, praised Jadakiss' raspy voice for its sound on a record, and saluted Shammgod for his global impact on the game of basketball. "I'm proud to be on this panel man because I've studied each and every one of these creatives in their life."

PUMA Hoops and Def Jam's sophomore release celebrates Public Enemy's game-changing third album Fear of a Black Planet with two different iterations of the PUMA Sky LX and PUMA Clyde, two sneakers that Public Enemy and several other Def Jam artists wore back in the day.

The PUMA x Public Enemy Sky LX features a white and red colorway with a leather upper and Def Jam's logo plastered on the tongue and Chuck D's iconic "Fight the Power" verse stamped on the side. The PUMA x Public Enemy Clyde, on the other hand, features an all-red upper with black accents. The lowcut sneaker also features a white outsole with "FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET" written across it.

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(L-R) Jonathan Mannion, Iman Shumpert, Kristen Noel Crawley, and Don C celebrate the launch of Nectar of the Culture program and the limited-edition Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé bottle at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Sunday, February 16, 2020.
Courtesy of Moët & Chandon

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Held on Sunday (Feb. 16) at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, fellow creatives and friends gathered for a family-style brunch laced with glasses and newly designed bottles of Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé. As four life-sized portraits were presented and unveiled, everyone in the exclusive and star-studded room raised a glass to toast the influential couple and the man behind the lens.

"I've been on a journey with Jon. Together we gone to different cities around the United States celebrating people who we believe are pushing the culture forward," said Jasmin Allen, Vice President of Moët & Chandon U.S. "And today we're in Chicago, the fantastic city of Chicago, against the backdrop of All-Star Weekend, to celebrate leveraging the lens of the mastermind Jonathan Mannion.

"With Jonathan, we've had the opportunity to capture the brilliance of Don C. and Kristen Noel Crawley. Separately, they've done phenomenal things in their areas of expertise and for their communities. But I would argue that together they are bar none. Today, we celebrate them in all their glory."

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"Nectar is divided into two different sections. There's "Nec" which means "death"[sic] and "tar" which means "to overcome," which is really powerful, to overcome death. And I think about what I've done with my photography and so many of the people I've photographed in this room and shared my gift with in order to then share it with you guys is really, really essential."

He continued: "We're mortal. We're not here forever, so what's your mark going to be? This is a challenge to really be present for each other and support each other. I just want you to take the time to be together, to embrace each other, to cherish these moments because the moments are essential. I truly am grateful to my partners Moët for believing in me, for believing that my vision was an important one, for bringing this campaign, 'Nectar of the Culture,' to life."

Other creative luminaries in the room included Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis, Yaya DaCosta, Brian Michael Cox, Mano, Nigel Holt, Set Free and more. Scroll down to view more photos from the event.

Moët & Chandon has also released a new, limited-edition collection of custom-designed Moët Nectar Imperial Rosé bottles which pay tribute to the Rose Gold Era and its associated visionaries. As for the "Nectar of the Culture" campaign, Moët and Mannion will be heading to Los Angeles to raise a glass to another pioneer(s).

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