While he's being raked over the coals by a prosecutor in a New York courtroom, Puff Daddy is getting strong support from a gallery that has been quick to discredit him in recent years: the hip-hop community.
During his rise to stardom in the 1990s, the rap mogul endured disses from fellow rappers for dwelling on materialism in his work, and for sample-heavy tracks that some said were a disgrace to hip-hop. But many of the genre's elite seem to be looking beyond Sean "Puffy" Combs' perceived musical transgressions to support him as his trial on gun possession and bribery charges draws to a close.
"He and his family have my sympathy and my prayers," Three 6 Mafia's Gangsta Boo said. "I hope that he gets out of this with no problems, no scrapes and no bruises. I hope everything is smooth sailing for Puffy and Shyne." Said Macy Gray: "I hope he comes out all right 'cause he's a cool dude and I hope nothing bad happens." Some artists expressed concern that locking up Combs would hurt others in the hip-hop community.
"At the end of the day I can't wish no harm to that man," dancehall star Shaggy said. "That man provides a lot of jobs for people." Still, hip-hoppers expressed little doubt that Puff Daddy's celebrity has hurt him, even within the rap world.
"There's a lot of people that are against him right now," according to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony rapper Krayzie Bone, who said bad blood between Combs and the late Tupac Shakur is at least partly to blame.
"I don't really know the facts of the case, but it seems like there's a lot of people that want to see him fall. I guess it's just something about him," Krayzie Bone said. "Ever since that sh-- with him and Pac was going on, it seems like people just took Pac's side." Actor and comedian Jamie Foxx raised the larger issue of bad blood between police and the black community.
"Puffy ain't no different than anybody else that has had this happen in any city," Foxx said last weekend. "It's just the fact the light is on him. What I tell all brothers, all black people, because we are graded differently, you've gotta walk a little cleaner. Police, everybody else, wanna take the brother down. People say, 'Oh it's a black thing.' But it's not. It's a reality, so we gotta get used to it and understand if it was Joe Schmo, it would all be good. But these are the tracks we gotta walk in." Pioneering Bronx rapper KRS-One, who had Combs remix the track "Step Into a World" from his 1997 album, I Got Next, said law-enforcement officials treated Combs differently than they treated other popular artists.
"If that police officer that arrested Puff Daddy in the club that night respected Puff Daddy as being part of a culture that was going to retaliate if he got arrested for whatever reason and Puffy could be dead wrong but if the police officer thought for a second that Puffy was protected by a culture that was willing to go toe-to-toe [with authority], there wouldn't even be a trial going on right now," KRS-One said. "People are focusing on Puffy's trial, but what they're not focusing on is why was he even arrested to begin with. He was arrested because the police had no respect for him." KRS-One said in the 1980s, when hip-hop was more unified, artists were above the law, in a sense, because they were respected.
"There were a few times that Public Enemy started uprisings at their concerts with 'Fight the Power,' but the cops respected it and they didn't get arrested," he said. "Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, the list goes on and on. When the justice department respects you, you don't go to jail. What's happening is that the justice department does not respect hip-hop or rap because of the criminal image we present to their children, not just our own." Regardless of the outcome of the trial the jury was expected to begin deliberating Wednesday (March 14) the hip-hop community now seems to be unifying around one of its biggest figures.
"We're just trying to be as supportive as we possibly can," said 112's Daron, whose group records for Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment label. "We're definitely praying for him every day." Even longtime Combs rival Suge Knight, the imprisoned chief executive of Death Row Records, expressed his apparent support last week. "If I had a chance, and I could talk to the jury, I'd say 'Look, before you send this guy to prison, look at the consequences,' " Knight said from his California jail cell. "Prison could destroy this guy, instead of help this guy." (Click HERE for a complete explanation of the charges in the Puff Daddy case. Click HERE for our complete trial coverage.)