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Sean 'Puffy' Combs Says Howdy, Diddy

July 18, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

Don't worry about Puff Daddy. The hip-hop alter ego of performer-producer-executive Sean "Puffy" Combs hasn't been hurt by changing trends--not to mention the bad publicity stemming from Combs' assault on an MCA Records executive. His "PE 2000" single, now on radio in advance of the upcoming "Forever" album, due Aug. 24, is shaping up as a big hit.

But what about P Diddy?

That's Combs' newest persona. And he rocks.

"It's his rock 'n' roll alter ego," says his manager, Benny Medina.

It's an outgrowth of the rock remix Combs did of his hip-hop hit "All About the Benjamins" (featuring Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters), and of the "Godzilla" soundtrack's "Come With Me," which incorporated elements of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and featured that band's Jimmy Page on guitar.

Combs continues his move into rock territory with a rock version of "PE 2000" (with guest Chuck D of Public Enemy, whose original "Public Enemy No. 1" is used in the song) that will be released in a month or two, along with a Spanish-language version and a hybrid "Spanglish" rendition, each with its own video.

"P Diddy is going to be a full-on group to focus on [rock] stuff like that," Medina says. "He's exploring and going further down that road."

That move is emblematic of the new album's harder-edged tone. The collection, still being assembled as Combs chooses 13 or 14 songs from the 35 he recorded, won't abandon his hip-hop and R&B faithful, with guest collaborators including Jay-Z, Lil' Kim and R. Kelly. But elsewhere it reveals some inspiration from such hip-hop-influenced hard-rock bands as Korn and Limp Bizkit.

"The record has the obvious singles in hip-hop, but otherwise it's gotten more edgy," Medina says, adding that Combs is looking at doing a club tour with his 12-member rock band, and has been talking with rap-rocker Kid Rock about doing shows together or some other collaboration.

"It's smart," says Violet Brown, urban music buyer for the Wherehouse stores. "If you look at the rock albums at the top of the charts now, they all have rap influences."

But will rock fans take to P Diddy, and will Puff Daddy's old fans follow him to rockier ground?

"It's a smart business move that opens him up to a whole new market," says Dorsey Fuller, music director of Los Angeles urban radio station KKBT-FM (92.3). "But as far as mainstream urban radio, it doesn't do anything. [The rock-based songs] don't work for us at all. The 'Godzilla' single, we couldn't do anything with that. The rock audience is going to hip-hop, but it's not a two-way street. There's the alternative R&B vibe with people like Erykah Badu and Macy Gray, but I don't see it moving into a harder rock arena."

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YOUTH 2K: The two big New Year's Eve concerts in L.A. announced so far have a decidedly baby boomer slant, with the Eagles headlining the Staples Center and Jimmy Buffett at the Universal Amphitheatre. Now plans are being discussed for a show skewed to a youth audience--though it may fall victim to an even younger-appeal event.

The proposal has No Doubt topping a bill at the Arrowhead Pond in the band's hometown of Anaheim. The group 311 would also be on the show, along with one or two other acts.

The problem? The building's already on hold that night for "Disney on Ice." The Disney people were willing to turn the night over, but for a fee--with the initial figure given at $250,000, according to sources close to the bands. To cover that extra expense, promoters felt, would have meant pushing ticket prices too high for the young audience.

The issue's not dead, though. Word is that the fee could be reduced, and several other options are being explored for the venue for that night that might involve other rock and pop acts.

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CULT WORSHIP: The band the Cult, back in action after a five-year break, is about ready to sign a new record deal, with Atlantic Records apparently favored as its new home over Arista--though a couple of new suitors came in with last-minute offers.

Excitement for the group built from recent appearances at the Viper Room, where the lineup of founding singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy were joined by ex-Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum (a Cult member in the mid-'80s) and bassist Martyne LeNoble (ex-Porno for Pyros) was unveiled. Plans are for the band to work on new material following a tour that includes a five-night stint Aug. 19-23 at the House of Blues.

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