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Lawsuit accuses Sean 'Diddy' Combs of trafficking, sexual assault and abuse

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

R&B singer Cassie Ventura is making some explosive accusations against one of the most prominent men in the music industry. In a civil suit filed on Thursday, Ventura accused Sean "Diddy" Combs of sexual assault, trafficking and more. In a statement through his attorney, Combs has denied the allegations. NPR music correspondent Sidney Madden is here with us to tell us more about this. And here's where we're going to let you know that this conversation will include descriptions of sexual assault. With that being said, Sidney, good morning.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So first, would you just remind us of why Sean Combs is so important in the music industry?

MADDEN: Absolutely. Sean Combs, who's gone by many monikers over the years, from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy - he is one of the most recognizable figures not only in hip-hop but in popular music. As the founder of Bad Boy Entertainment in the early '90s, he's credited with making the label a powerhouse and changing the sound and energy of '90s hip-hop. He managed the careers of The Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown, Mase, and even in the R&B space, acts like Carl Thomas. And he played a big role in ushering hip-hop's era of high-sheen, ultra-luxe, ultra-capitalistic opulence. So you think million-dollar-budget videos...

MARTIN: Sure.

MADDEN: ...Multiplatinum records...

MARTIN: OK.

MADDEN: ...Hampton white parties, stuff like that.

MARTIN: Got it, got it. So he's a big name. He's, like, a big force in the culture sort of broadly.

MADDEN: Huge presence.

MARTIN: So how did he meet Ventura?

MADDEN: Combs and Ventura met when she signed to Bad Boy in about 2004, 2005, when her current label partnered with Bad Boy Entertainment for the release of her debut album. And from the time she signed with Bad Boy at 19 years old, the suit alleges that's where their romantic partnership began, but also that's where the pattern of control, manipulation and abuse started. So really, the entirety of their romantic relationship and her music career.

MARTIN: OK. So they ended their relationship in 2018. In her lawsuit, she thanked the New York Adult Survivors Act for helping her come forward. What's the significance of that?

MADDEN: The New York Survivors Act, which passed just last year in 2022 - it opens up a one-year window that allows adult survivors whose statues of limitations might have expired on these allegations of abuse - it allows them the ability to file a civil suit against the accused offender. But it's very - a very specific window. So it was right up against the deadline when she filed.

MARTIN: So this isn't the first time that somebody - a big figure in entertainment - you know, in hip-hop or in entertainment more broadly has been accused of sexual misconduct. I mean, nobody can forget Harvey Weinstein, of course. So is there anything that makes this lawsuit different?

MADDEN: I think one aspect that makes this lawsuit different is the stature of the accused. As I said, Diddy is a huge presence in hip-hop from the late '90s up until now. The power he holds in hip-hop currently is insurmountable to a lot of the other people who've been accused. He's not a legacy name. He's a very active voice. He's at every Met Gala, every Roc Nation brunch, every Grammy celebration. He's one of hip-hop's few billionaires. That type of power and presence is what this case is up against.

MARTIN: All right. That is NPR music correspondent Sidney Madden. Sidney, thank you.

MADDEN: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.