Music industry entrepreneur Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, set off a firestorm online Thursday when he posted an open letter to corporate America calling on businesses to spend more money on Black-owned media companies, only to have his own history of allegedly underpaying Black artists thrown back in his face.
In an open letter titled “If You Love Us, Pay Us,” Combs called on companies to up their advertising spending with Black-owned media businesses to invest in the Black community, writing that “no longer can Corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action.”
Combs wrote his own cable TV network, Revolt, has to “fight for crumbs” like every other Black-owned businesses for advertising revenue while big businesses make billions of dollars off the Black community.
However, Combs’ open letter appears to have backfired, as social media users pointed out Combs himself has been accused for years of profiting off underpaid Black artists signed to his record label.
The Lox, a rap group once signed to Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment, accused the record exec of withholding the group’s publishing rights during a 2005 radio interview, which Combs called into to defend himself — but the issue was settled after Combs returned the publishing rights to members Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P shortly after their on-air clash.
Mase, another rapper once on Bad Boy’s roster, slammed Combs last year in an Instagram post, accusing Combs of refusing to sell Mase’s publishing rights back to him unless he could match an offer from a European buyer in excess of $2 million after initially purchasing the rights from Mase for just $20,000 in 1996, Mase claimed.
Combs’ drama over music rights is just a chapter in a long history of artists who claim they were taken advantage of by powerful music industry leaders with unfair recording contracts.
$55 million. That’s how much Forbes estimates Combs took home in 2020. Combs began his career as a record executive and producer, but now makes most of his money from drinks, like his partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka and ownership in DeLeón tequila and Aquahydrate water. Forbes estimated Combs was worth $820 million in 2017.
“Diddy” was trending on Twitter Thursday, after the open letter went viral and users pointed out artists’ allegations against Combs. Television host Jessica Fyre responded to Combs’ letter, writing she had been approached by his network to do an unpaid hosting job. “We cannot keep knocking white folks for their disrespect towards minority creators while doing the same thing to each other,” she wrote on Twitter. American rapper Noname said Combs was “shaming white corporations for a capitalist business model he almost completely replicated.” Revolut did not immediately respond to a Forbes request for comment.
If You Love Us, Pay Us: A letter from Sean Combs to Corporate America (Revolt)