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Sean “Diddy” Combs‘ father died when he was just 2 years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother, Janice Combs. Over the years, the rapper and music mogul has reflected on how his mother’s raising him continues to affect him to this day.

Sean "Diddy" Combs and his mother Janice Combs
Sean “Diddy” Combs and Janice Combs | Leon Bennett/Getty Images

How Diddy described his relationship with his mother

Diddy looked back on his relationship with his mother in a 2006 interview with Oprah Winfrey. “My mother likes to spend time with me. She loves me so much, and she’s so proud of me,” he said. “She almost killed herself to make sure I went to private schools, to expose me to travel. She made sure I never looked down on other people. She also ignited a fire in me.”

After Diddy was arrested and charged following a shooting at a New York City nightclub, his mother was by his side as he fought for his freedom, which came in 2001 with his acquittal. “She wanted me to be bigger than my circumstances,” he said. “During the trial, she walked by me every step of the way.”

Diddy’s mom lied to him about his father

Diddy grew up between Harlem and Mount Vernon, New York. He looked back fondly on his experience living in the suburbs.

“Until I was 12, I lived in Harlem. Then we moved to Mount Vernon, New York. That was Mom’s way of getting us out of the inner city after my father was killed. But my grandmother lived in Harlem, so I went back and forth,” he recounted. “I remember the simple things about Mount Vernon: grass, trees, and being able to play baseball. In Harlem there was no Little League, no front yard with grass. But the neighborhood was multicultural, so that broadened my horizons.”

Diddy’s father, Melvin Combs, was a drug dealer who was killed in a deal gone wrong. But rather than tell her son what really happened with his father, Janice kept the truth away from him.

“She tried to protect me. My father was a hustler who sold drugs. During his time, that was the way out of Harlem—either that or playing basketball,” he said. “My mother didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps, so she was selective about which truths she told me: My father was in the army, and he owned a limousine service, and he died in a car accident. Actually, he was shot in a car. But even as a kid, I put two and two together. I noticed that guys from the streets in Harlem always seemed to know my family’s last name. ‘I used to run with your father,’ they’d tell me. All my uncles were street hustlers as well.”


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Diddy’s mother acted as a father

Janice ended up taking on the duties of both a mother and a father. “My mother played the role of a father, and my grandmother played the role of my mother,” Diddy said.

He went on tell a story about when his mother taught him to be strong. “One day when I was about 9, I went to the store for my grandmother, and someone stole my money. I came home crying. My mother wouldn’t let me in the house. She said, ‘Go back out there and get that money — and if anyone ever puts their hands on you, make sure they never do it again,'” he remembered. “She knew the reality — if people smell weakness, they take advantage of you. You have to defend yourself. On the other hand, my grandmother was like, ‘Come here, baby. I’ll walk with you to the store.’ I’m not saying that my mom would never have let me in the house that day, but she was trying to teach me a lesson.”