At Howard University’s commencement ceremony this year, rap entrepreneur Puff Daddy received an honorary doctorate from the school he once attended and also delivered his commencement speech during the ceremony.
In the over 30-minute long speech, Puff spoke on the two years he spent at Howard University and also recalled discovering the cause of his father’s death during his first year at the Washington D.C. university.
The Bad Boy Records founder revealed that his mother had previously informed him that his father, who passed away when he was a toddler, was killed in a car accident. Upon researching his father’s death while at the Founders Library at Howard, he discovered that his father was killed during a drug deal gone wrong.
“On my second day of school I learned something that would change the course of my life forever,” Puff said. “I don’t talk about this often. I was raised by a single mother in Harlem. My dad, Mr. Melvin Combs died when I was three-years-old. My mother always told me that he died in a car accident. But something about that it just didn’t feel right. Something was in my soul that was telling me otherwise. So, as soon as I got here I went to the library and I did some research. I used the microfilm at Founders [Library] to search through all the newspapers. And when I typed in my father’s name and the day he died, I read in the Amsterdam News that he had been murdered in a drug deal gone bad. Right there in that library I realized there’s nothing greater than a mother’s love and desire to protect her child.”
Puff later recalled being fired from his job at Uptown Records with Andre Harrell, and the sense of uncertainty he was left with after being fired from his first major job with no degree and a baby on the way.
“In the early ‘90s, when my friends were graduating from Howard. I got fired from that first job that I got with Andre Harrell,” he said. “I know a lot of you know this story, but some of you may not know how scared I was. See I was scared to death. I didn’t have a degree. My girlfriend was eight and a half months pregnant with my first baby. I bought a brand new house in Scarsdale that I could not afford.
“So, I found myself sitting alone in my bedroom and asking myself the question that sometimes we all ask each other,” Puff added. “‘What are you gonna do now? What are you gonna do now? You should’ve kept your mouth shut and just did what Andre told you to do, but you wanted to act like you was making hit records. Now look at you. What are you gon’ do now?’ So, I had two choices. Either I was gonna sit in that failure and give up or I was gonna make a decision to step out of the darkness. You see when you in that darkness you want to sit there and wait for that light to come. When you in that darkness it feels uncomfortable, but you can’t wait and sit in that darkness. The only way out is to step forward. To face your fears. To become your own light.”
In addition to Puff Daddy, other celebrities in attendance at Howard University’s 2014 commencement ceremony included Mary J. Blige, French Montana, and Andre Harrell.
Video of Puff’s speech can be found below (viaREVOLT).