Everyone knew it—the line to see Sean Combs at AT&T’s second annual Shape conference would be long. “If you need to use the restroom, make sure to do that now,” said one of the staff members. There would be no “seat holding” business. A few attendees made a beeline to the stage 48 building upon hearing this. Some clumsily ate their lunches while they stood waiting with the heavy, robust summer sun on their backs.
Better known as P. Diddy, Sean has made a name for himself as more than just a Grammy-winning rapper. In 1998, he launched a clothing line, Sean John. He’s the founder of Revolt, an American music-oriented digital cable television network. He’s involved in a partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka and has a majority holding in Aquahydrate alkaline water—and that’s just naming a few of his ventures.
So it’s no surprise that the Warner Bros sound stage, were panel discussions took place throughout the two-day event, was jam-packed with people eager to hear what he had to say. There was a truckload of excitement in the air. You could feel it when John Donovan first called Sean combs to the stage, by the amount of folks who rose to their feet before Sean even uttered his first word. You could tell by the sheer boom of the applause punctuating the middles and ends of Sean’s answers that doubled as mini inspirational speeches. Although the panel was dubbed “New Platforms For Artists,” the conversation ventured well past the confines of that title. Here are some highlights from the afternoon’s discussion.
On being named as one of the “World’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds” by Forbes.
“I come from this beautiful community, this beautiful culture called hip-hop. Started out as a small, disruptive musical genre in the Bronx, and now has grown to be the most powerful cultural force in the world. […] I think my secret is that I believe. I believe in the power of my community. I believe in us. I believe in the art of us. I believe in our value. It put me on a mission to not just want to make music, not just want to be known as a rapper. I wanted to come and change the world. I wanted to come and make a difference and be a platform, be a place of inspiration, but also to be a foundation, to give these voices that aren’t heard, this community that is under-serviced, to give it the light that it needs, but most importantly, to give it the support that it needs.”
On Black Panther.
“Right now we’re in a black renaissance. We’re in a black rebirth. There was this experiment that they just had. […] And the experiment was Black Panther. You’ve got to understand, this is our first shot. This is up the bat ever, getting the proper resources, the proper distribution, the proper promotions, the belief that we can be somebody overseas. $1.3 billion dollars that film made.”
On his vision for Revolt.
“I started Revolt not because I wanted to have my own network. I started Revolt because my community needed a network. We needed a platform. All the things that’s going on right now in the world, we have no place to go to discuss how we feel. Nothing is expressed through our lens. What we’ve been brought up to see is the gatekeepers who don’t look like us and don’t care about us putting us in narratives that aren’t who we are. Black Panther just scratched the surface of how great we are, and so I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, and I wanted to create an institution, a place that young people that can’t get heard, can’t get seen that are creatives, they could come and they could have a place. They could have a home that talks about these issues. […] It’s something that’s needed so when anything goes on in the world, whatever issues, you get to hear our perspective. Uncut, unfiltered—that’s Revolt.”
On where his will to execute springs from.
“That comes from my mother. […] She worked four jobs to take care of us, and you know, one day, I asked for a pair of sneakers, and she couldn’t afford it. The look that I saw on her face, I said, ‘I will never see that look on my mother’s face again.’ I was 12 at the time so I was kind of young to get hired with all the labor laws and everything. But I wanted to work, so I came up with this idea, that all of the paper boys that were going to college, I could deliver their papers while they’re in college, and then send them 50 percent of the money. […] The thing that I learned most importantly, besides [that] I was making $600 a week and I really liked how it felt, was…it was that next step that I would take. All the other paper boys would throw the papers on the lawn. You know, you have older people that, you know, have to come outside and go and bend down, and I made it my business to make sure that I followed through. And I learned that from my mother—following through on my dreams and following through on what I believe. So I made sure to put the paper in between the screen door and the door so they didn’t have to go outside, and I’ve take that work ethic throughout my whole life.”
On the power of social media in the hands of creators.
“We have an opportunity right now to make a change, and to make it quicker than ever. The technology that I most love—even though I know everybody’s into AI, going into virtual reality—but for me, it’s social media. It’s the boundaries that it actually breaks down for us be able to communicate, for us to be able to get information out there. There’s going to be all types of technology that comes out, but right now, in this time of so much political chaos and what’s going on racially, it’s igniting a fire in creators. The creators are speaking through the things that they create, to be seen and be heard and make a difference. […] If there’s anything I can tell you guys: ownership. Own something.”