NEW YORK — In the aftermath of his acquittal on gun-possession and bribery charges, Sean Combs doesn't just plan to change his life — he's going to change his name, too.
In an effort to break from his past, the artist formerly known as both Puffy and Puff Daddy now wants to be known as P. Diddy, he told MTV News Wednesday morning (March 28) in his first on-camera interview since his acquittal on gun possession and bribery charges.
"No more Puff Daddy — the first week in June we're gonna have a name change ceremony," Combs said. "I'm not doing it as serious as Prince [but] I just want something fresh ... I'm rockin' with P. Diddy now — my man Biggie gave me that name."
Combs has used the nickname in the past in producing credits, and his appearance on "Let's Get It," the new single from Bad Boy rapper G-Dep, is credited to P. Diddy.
Combs plans to take at least two months off before returning to recording and producing, in part to reevaluate his personal and professional life, he said. "I gotta take a break ... I'm going to take a leave of absence just to be Sean Combs, [to] have time to think about what's the next level I want to play on."
In the interview, Combs criticized authorities for what he said was a rush to judgment on the night of the Club New York shootings, December 27, 1999. "There was press outside the police station ... it was like guilty before innocent," he said.
Repeating an argument put forth by his lawyers during his seven-week trial, Combs said witnesses who testified that he had a gun were lying in an effort to profit from lawsuits against him.
"I think it was a separate conspiracy with one common goal — to get some paper," Combs asserted. "A lot of people want to make money without working hard. When they see opportunity, they take it."
Lawyers for several witnesses have said they plan to continue to pursue civil suits against Combs, despite his acquittal. Combs' civil lawyer plans to ask for the suits to be dismissed.
Although his former protégé and co-defendant Jamal "Shyne" Barrow has accused Combs of abandoning him (see [article id="1441966"]"Puffy, Shyne In Post-Trial War Of Words"[/article]), the rap mogul said he bears Shyne no ill will, and plans to visit him in prison next week.
Shyne was convicted of assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession in connection with the club shooting, and faces up to 25 years in prison (see [article id="1441788"]
"Puffy Combs Acquitted; Shyne Guilty Of Assault, Gun Possession"[/article]). He's scheduled to be sentenced April 16.
"He's young, very talented. He's definitely somebody whose life shouldn't be wasted," Combs said, suggesting that his label, Bad Boy, will support Shyne through his appeals process. "I don't abandon anybody."
Combs, wearing the earrings and dark glasses he eschewed during his trial, was relaxed and upbeat in the interview, tensing only when questions turned to ex-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. "I'll always love her. We'll always be friends," Combs said. "When the time is right, we're gonna meet again."
For more from the MTV News interview with Combs, check out [article id="1442275"]"Sean 'Puffy' Combs Speaks."[/article]