Diddy’s Alleged History of Abuse, Violence, Sexual Harassment

Shortly after R&B singer Casandra “Cassie” Ventura filed her sex-trafficking lawsuit against Sean “Diddy” Combs last November, Rolling Stone launched a wide-ranging, six-month investigation into the rapper, record mogul, and billionaire businessman. 

The reporting led to interviews with more than 50 people connected to Combs throughout his career, stretching back to his days as a student at Howard University. The career-spanning article, published Tuesday, uncovered a previously unreported allegation of violence against a woman on the Howard campus, new details of alleged physical aggression, and claims that Combs sexually harassed a freelance employee at a 2001 party.

The new claims bolster the public allegations made against Combs in the six additional sex-assault lawsuits filed by five women and a man since Ventura stepped forward.

Several people who spoke to Rolling Stone described Combs as a serial predator who used his fame, fortune, industry status, and reputation as a fun-loving party host to hide a volatile temper and disturbing, narcissistic behavior for decades. 

In a video posted on social media May 19, Combs apologized for beating Ventura in a hotel hallway, calling his actions, captured on video, “disgusting.” But the music impresario otherwise denies the allegations against him in court filings and through statements from his lawyers.

Combs’ attorney did not respond to the specific allegations made by sources who spoke with Rolling Stone. “Mr. Combs cannot comment on settled litigation, will not comment on pending litigation, and cannot address every allegation picked up by the press from any source, no matter how unreliable,” attorney Jonathan Davis says in a statement. “We are aware that the proper authorities are conducting a thorough investigation and therefore have confidence any important issues will be addressed in the proper forum, where the rules distinguish facts from fiction.”

Here are 10 key takeaways from our story:

1. Abuse Allegations Against Combs Date Back to His College Years
At Howard, Combs became known for hosting rowdy weekly parties. But several women remember him more for an alleged incident outside a school dorm. One classmate tells Rolling Stone that Combs showed up outside a women’s dorm one night and began screaming for a girlfriend in a “belligerent” manner. Other women in the dorm quickly began running through the halls, knocking on doors in a panic, according to the source. They were sounding the alarm that Combs, known then by his nickname “Puff,” was attacking the young woman outside, she recalls. “Puff is out here acting crazy. He’s beating her,” the fellow students said, according to the classmate. 

“He screamed and hollered and acted a stone fool until she came downstairs,” says another student who witnessed the beating. She says Combs used what appeared to be a belt to strike the young woman “all over the place.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the incident, the witness says Combs appeared “super angry” and was “screaming at the top of his lungs,” adding that he “whupped her butt — like really whupped her butt.” 

The witness says the woman was clearly terrorized: “She was trying to defend herself a little bit. She was crying. And we were telling him, ‘Get off of her.’ We were screaming for her.” A third source also recalled the alleged assault to Rolling Stone. (The woman at the center of the alleged attack declined to speak with Rolling Stone.) 

2. Combs Allegedly Beat a Music Executive Bloody Over the Man’s Relationship With Combs’ Ex, Kim Porter
In 2000, Porter’s fledgling courtship with late music executive Shakir Stewart enraged Combs. When the industry gathered for L.A. Reid’s wedding in Italy that summer, Combs went to Stewart’s hotel room after the ceremony and allegedly broke a chair over Stewart’s head, Stewart’s mother and two of his close friends tell Rolling Stone. “He left him bleeding on a hotel floor in Italy,” Stewart’s mother, Portia, says. “He had to have stitches and then [Combs] threatened him … ‘I’m going to kill you’ … That’s when I said, ‘You need to get out of this business. This man is crazy.‘”

3. Combs Sexually Harassed a Business Associate at a 2001 Party
After Combs’ acquittal in a shooting incident at a New York club, he went to the Peninsula Hotel, where he was throwing a massive bash to celebrate the verdict. “Anna,” a freelance graphic designer working with Bad Boy’s marketing team, says Combs approached her and began to massage her shoulders. (The woman requested a pseudonym, citing fear of retribution.) “I’m getting touched on my shoulder, my arms, my back. He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, you like that? I know you like that.’ Like really, really gross,” Anna recalls, sharing her story publicly for the first time. “I was like, ‘No, not so much,’ and I floated my way out of there.’” 

Anna says she avoided Combs the rest of the night. Weeks later, her boss’ girlfriend confided that Combs allegedly approached the boss the night of the party to “solicit me for sex,” Anna says. (A friend confirmed to Rolling Stone that Anna told her about both the encounter and the proposed arrangement when they began working together a few years later. (The boss did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for an interview, and the girlfriend declined to speak.)

“I felt quite unsettled about this for many years. When people ask me about my days at Bad Boy, it’s just overshadowed by his crap,” Anna says, adding that Combs treated her as though she existed to “accommodate his whims.”

4. Combs Allegedly Attacked a Woman Inside Bad Boy’s Offices
Burrowes says he once saw Combs physically assault a woman inside Bad Boy’s offices in 1994. He and another ex-employee tell Rolling Stone they had to tear Combs off the woman after hearing screams and the sound of shattering glass. (The woman declined Rolling Stone’s request for comment.) Felicia Newsome, the first manager of Bad Boy’s recording studio, Daddy’s House, recalls once holding Combs back when he was about to “beat this girl’s ass” after a fight broke out between two women. “I’m holding him by his waist, saying, ‘You need to calm down. This is not your fight,’” Newsome recalls.

5. Three Accusers Speak Out for the First Time: ‘It Isn’t About the Money’
Three of the women now suing Combs for sexual assault tell Rolling Stone that once they learned their abuse was part of an alleged pattern, it was time to lend their voices to hold Combs accountable. “It isn’t about money,” says Joi Dickerson-Neal. “It’s about making sure the world sees that this man who rose to the level of an ‘icon’ is actually sick and has left so many victims in [the wake of his] unpunished disgusting behavior for years.” 

“I had a whole future [in modeling] mapped out that was stolen from me. Being sexually assaulted and having no recourse is so painful,” model Crystal McKinney says. “I felt like I was dying every day because I did not yet have the strength to come forward.… I hope that by speaking out, I can help other survivors come forward and seek justice.”

A Detroit-area Jane Doe who alleges she was gang raped by Combs (shown here in a photo with him on the night of the alleged encounter), his former executive Harve Pierre, and a third unidentified man in 2003 tells Rolling Stone it was “incredibly difficult” to share her story, but she was “encouraged” by the voices of the other women. “It is important to remember that it is not just Combs, but also all of those who acted with him, stood silent, and actively covered up his behavior that must be held accountable,” she says.

6. Combs Was Jealous of Tupac Shakur’s Friendship With the Notorious B.I.G.
Before Combs and his Bad Boy label were embroiled in a rivalry with Marion “Suge” Knight’s Death Row Records, he was fond of the charismatic Shakur. His Bad Boy team spent the summer of 1993 studying the rapper’s buoyant hit “I Get Around” as a blueprint for a commercial hip-hop record. Desperate to be taken seriously, Combs tried to foster a friendship with one of hip-hop’s greatest talents, sources said. 

Shakur wasn’t interested. “Pac didn’t have any kind of respect for Puff,” says Nineties hip-hop photographer Monqiue Bunn, who was close with Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace and other Bad Boy artists. To Shakur and even Wallace, Bunn says, Combs was a “corny executive.” Instead, according to Bad Boy ex-president Kirk Burrowes, Shakur bonded with Wallace, whom he viewed as his peer. As a result, he says, referring to Combs, “there was someone on the sidelines jealous, not wanting that friendship to happen.” 

7. Sources Say Combs Had Abandonment Issues and Wouldn’t Let the Women in His Life Move On
Damien Vasquez, a former Bad Boy intern, says after Combs and Jennifer Lopez broke up, Combs had staffers camp outside MTV’s TRL studios with signs to win her back. Ventura claimed that every time she hid from him, Combs’ network of operatives found her and implored her to return, including a Bad Boy executive who threatened to withhold the release of her music if she didn’t return Combs’ calls. 

Burrowes believes Combs’ losses at a young age — especially the murder of his father — took a toll on his relationships. “He is fortified now with the money and the power,” but “abandonment and the act of leaving can bring about vicious results,” Burrowes says. “And the women catch it the worst.” Porter, who died of lobar pneumonia in 2018, was no exception. Her relationship with Combs was tumultuous, according to two sources who claim Combs physically abused her. “I remember Kim used to go through a lot of stuff,” former Bad Boy rapper Mark Curry says. “If you live around them, you get to see the toxic relationship.…  I think every relationship he had that I experienced around him was like that.” After their breakup, Combs refused to let her move on, Porter told Essence. He still called “50, 60 times a day,” she said. “It was like my life was not my own.… He was very, very intrusive.”

8. Combs Quickly Sought the Spotlight After Biggie’s Death
Just two weeks after Wallace was murdered in March 1997, Combs ordered LaJoyce Brookshire, the former director of publicity for Arista and Bad Boy, to focus all efforts on Wallace’s upcoming album, Life After Death. Combs denied Brookshire’s request for time off to process her grief and instead demanded she work until the album was “number one, number one, number one, number one, number one. Top 10, top 10, top 10,” she recalls. (It sold nearly 700,000 copies in its first week.) 

When Rolling Stone approached Bad Boy about a cover opportunity a few months after Biggie’s murder, Burrowes claims he advocated for the late rapper to take the spot. “I was telling Sean, ‘Let’s make it Biggie. You still have a chance [for a cover in the future],’” Burrowes recalls. “He’s like ‘No, he’s dead. I’m putting out [Combs’ debut album, No Way Out] in July. I need to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.’” 

Combs got his cover. Two years later, he acknowledged how Biggie’s death had been big business. “I think his passing added to the fame,” Combs told Rolling Stone in 1999. “At least 2 million [of the nearly 5 million copies of No Way Out] sold were due to [his death], straight up. And that doesn’t necessarily feel good, but that’s the reality.”

9. Co-workers Showed Disdain for Combs Behind His Back Inside the Bad Boy Offices
Burrowes recalls “jealous” Uptown execs referring to Combs as “Satan” and flipping him off as they walked by his offices in the Uptown building. Bad Boy sources say Combs was difficult to work for, claiming employees who wanted to stick around had to learn how to “speak Puffy.” A demanding boss, Combs often yelled to get his point across and fired employees on a whim. “No one on his team at Bad Boy spoke back to him,” former Daddy’s House studio manager Felicia Newsome says. “No one challenged him.” 

Another source recalls artist Mase calling Combs “massa” behind his back. (Mase did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.) “He was so volatile,” says a source who sometimes worked with Bad Boy. “He’s always on the edge of snapping and being scary. People did whatever he said to stay in his good graces … and Puffy exploited people’s desires to be in those environments.”

10. Many Bad Boy Artists Were Unhappy or Believe Combs Blacklisted Them
Mark Curry was affiliated with Bad Boy from 1997 to 2006 and later wrote the book Dancing With the Devil: How Puff Burned the Bad Boys of Hip-Hop in 2009. He says Combs repeatedly promised to produce his solo album but never gave him a budget. “There’s different ways you can kill a person,” Curry tells Rolling Stone. “You can kill them by the experience. You can physically kill them. I’ve noticed him kill a lot of people’s spirits.” 

Some who left Combs worried he might try to expel them from the industry altogether. Brooklyn rapper Lynese “Babs Bunny” Wiley of Combs’ MTV reality show Making the Band says she was “blackballed” after leaving the label. Photographer Monqiue Bunn claims her gigs instantly dried up after winning a lawsuit against Combs for withholding a set of Biggie photos from her in 2000. She claims a friend at The Fader magazine told her that Combs personally called the office and said if they worked with Bunn, Bad Boy would pull its advertising from the magazine.


“He’s someone you don’t want to make an enemy out of,” says one former employee. “When people do go against him, that person gets ostracized.” As ex-Bad Boy president Burrowes puts it, Combs “never” forgets a grudge. “If he sees a snag in the sweater, he’ll pull.”

For the full story, read Rolling Stone’s complete feature Bad Boy for Life.

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