Diddy’s White Party Kicked the Door, Announcing ‘We’re Here’ – The Undefeated

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“The people of the Hamptons thought the first holiday was the end of the world.” – Steven Gaines on P. Diddy’s White Party from his book, Philistines at the Hedge: Passion and Ownership in the Hamptons

Was it? Was Diddy’s Labor Day 1998 in the wealthy and predominantly white enclave of the hamptons, New York, the end of the world? Was this loud and luxurious display of party hip-hop culture, black culture and white celebrities eating and drinking at the sources of black wealth Veuve Clicquot et Chandon some kind of apocalypse?

This new black money was not interested in sequestering itself in the former vacation and summer residences of the black elite of generations past. Highland Beach, Maryland; Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts; even Sag Harbor, New York, lacked the luxury and elitist characteristics that this burgeoning black wealth class desired. This burgeoning class of black wealth that Diddy was leading felt at home in both the boardroom and the Bed-Stuy reggae club in Brooklyn, New York, and wanted to mingle with businesswoman Martha. Stewart and actor Ashton Kutcher in their enclaves. They had the philosophy of George Jefferson – they wanted to move forward and into the old white Anglo-Saxon Protestant communities of white wealth.

The White Party presented by P. Diddy at his East Hampton estate.

Wenn Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

However, they were not going to change their ways or replicate those of their white neighbors. This new black money in the form of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs (aka Puff Daddy) was dripping with swagger and swagger, and wanted you to know. Diddy’s White Party signaled to neighbors in the Hamptons that “we are here », Acting as if we wanted to act.

Five years after starting his Bad Boy Entertainment label, Diddy had signed and worked with a roster of illustrious artists including Biggie Smalls, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin. Bad Boy Entertainment allowed him to ride the streets and high society, traveling in a black car from Harlem, New York, to the Hamptons and back again. The streets have never been so loud and noisy as in the East Coast to West Coast beef that led to the Smalls assassination in 1997 with Diddy himself in the truck on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Before the launch of his drink empire of DeLéon Tequila and Ciroc Vodka, and a year after the release of his debut multi-platinum album, No Exit, with “I’ll Be Missing You,” a tribute to the Slain Smalls, 1998 found Diddy straddling the entertainment and fashion industry with the launch of his fashion house, Sean Jean.

Diddy was Cecil B. Rhodes-ing the competition, riding the trade map in America. Bad and boujee before Migos, then of grammar school age, could spell bad and remix the word bourgeoisie into boujee.

Diddy was Cecil B. Rhodes-ing the competition, riding the trade map in America. Bad and boujee before Migos, then old enough to go to grammar school, could remix the bourgeoisie into boujee. Funky and tedious about it. On September 7, 1998, in East Hampton, New York, on Hedges Banks Drive, Diddy’s White Party “kicked the door, waving the four-wheeler,” heralding this new era, this new tycoon, this groom is coming. This apocalypse.

Sean Combs (center) shares a photo with his kids at his annual White Party.

WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

And Diddy wanted his apocalypse, his cover all in white. As fashion historian Daniel Cole notes in The history of modern fashion: from 1850, white clothing, known as summer whites, became a popular manifestation of elitism, virtue, and leisure from the Victorian era, and gained enormous popularity in the 20th century, when white clothes have become a signal of wealth, exclusivity and even fancy. Think of Wimbledon. Think the fashion is spreading in Vanity Fair of models next to long-haired and white-haired dogs sitting next to a bonfire on a beach. Think of the owners of white plantations and the descendants of the northeastern yachting industry on the Chesapeake in late July. Think of Truman Capote, writer of In cold blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, sitting by a swimming pool with a notebook scribbling the names of Hollywood celebrities to invite to his black and white ball in 1966. Think of Capote’s black and white ball in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, 450 bottles of Taittinger champagne sweating under the tinkle of a chandelier.

Diddy’s co-optation of this tradition mixes this notion of fantasy, wealth and leisure with darkness, which is both subversive and not at all subversive. Subversion lies in the attachment of blacks and blacks to concepts such as leisure and exclusivity, which are not normally the domain of blacks. For example, if I ask you what you think of when you hear the words “wealth” or “leisure”, you are more likely to think of President Donald Trump on a golf outing, strolling over a piece of land too. Green, rather than Diddy getting off a helicopter with the Declaration of Independence under his arm, which he did in 2004 when he walked into that year’s White Party in the Hamptons from the sky.

Sean Combs (center) arrives at the annual Independence Day White Party at the PlayStation 2 Estate in Bridgehampton, New York.

AP Photo / Jennifer Szymaszek

From 1998 to 2009, Diddy’s White Parties hopped from one exclusive location to another. East Hampton, Beverly Hills, California and Saint-Tropez, France were just a few of the places Diddy has descended with his exclusive guest list, all-white dress code and white carpet parade that led to the lavishness of his nouveau riche remix of Jay Gatsby’s Imagination.

Let’s stay here for a moment, with this surreal and almost impossible image: a black man descending from a helicopter with a copy of one of America’s founding documents under his arm. It’s a moment that I imagine in an unreleased novel by Ralph Ellison. I would be a poor poet and critic if I slipped this moment into the dossier marked absurd and left it there for the dust mites. It’s a powerful image that anticipates and in some ways predicts Barack Obama’s presidency four years later, as well as callbacks to Jack Johnson, the American boxer and heavyweight champion who was convicted of trafficking in women. white women across state lines in 1912 for “immoral pleasures. Although the white woman was his wife, a woman named Lucille Cameron. Johnson, like Diddy, held one of the sacred and sacrosanct treasures of the America.

By holding up this iconic piece of paper, Diddy aligns himself with that cultural lineage and legacy of the Founding Fathers, the Mayflower and the mystique of the nation’s creation myth, which also means aligning with the Native American genocide, slavery, Jim Crow and countless other atrocities. Diddy’s White Party becomes a sort of “constitutional convention,” in which what is legislated is not so much the laws of the land, but who constitutes an American. But not just any American, a founder, an aristocrat. Diddy’s White Party, it is he who submits his candidacy.

What could also be called a cult of the American dream. This is a misinterpretation and flattening of Martin Luther King Jr. I have a dream speech, where we focus on the multicultural moment of kumbaya where all the white and black children of the world hold hands in post-racial harmony and erase or forget the call for reparation at the start of the king’s speech, a call that does not has not yet been answered.

Because the guest lists of these White Parties stretch across aisles, offices and fashion houses, bringing together ‘burbs, bank presidents, the bourgeoisie and the boujee, some would interpret this as a victory over. the old evils of a segregated America. Reverend Al Sharpton appearing in a white tunic and baggy pants, Franklin in a white wide-brimmed hat, a white feather-style coat with rhinestone studs, a white chiffon top, white pants with a large studded Chanel rhinestone purse – even the tips of Franklin’s toes painted white; all of this happening as models sit on white swings wearing white bikinis over a blue swimming pool could appear to be some sort of paradise in 2004. The airy and easy life of excellence. And hard work. But in reality, it is a celebration of cultural elitism, a place and a space that none of us could afford or be welcome.

Aretha Franklin at Diddy’s White Party in 2004.

Walik Goshorn / MediaPunch / IPX

This type of paradise is the American dream. This is what we all secretly desire – to be among the rich without the funk of our credit card debt, car payments, payday loans, student loans, gas bills and money. ‘electricity. It is America without our elders, solidly hidden and out of sight, without our sick, our imprisoned. And, we all wear white like we’ve just entered Heaven.

Diddy’s White Party becomes the escape we can’t afford but put aside. The year 1998 marked the end of a furious century, a century that began in a horse and buggy and ended in a rocket.

And the end of the century didn’t come with a whimper: the year 2000 was less than two years away, and everyone expected computers to crash and bring down the global banking system. School shootings began to tarnish the Central American landscape, and parents began to grapple with the idea that schools were no longer safe havens. We were six years from the last urban rebellions via the Los Angeles Riots, which were not confined only to LA, but spread to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Newark, New Jersey. And with the OJ Simpson trial reaching its crazy conclusion nearly two years ago, racial tension in America was no longer sequestered in its hills. It seemed to come out of its mountains, come down from the forest and rage everywhere.

And from that turmoil, a glow of white, a sort of white flag in the guise of Diddy in an all-white outfit inviting a thousand guests into his Hamptons house for a party on the last possible date we can wear white, labor day.

Maybe it was the end of something and at the same time the beginning of something else. An apocalypse which was at the same time a creation myth. An America drunk on vodka and stumbling to the edge of a swimming pool.

Roger Reeves is the author of King Me. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and a Pushcart Prize, as well as scholarships from Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and the University. from Princeton. Her second collection of poetry is forthcoming with WW Norton.


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