Diddy assault video cements fall of hip-hop icon

CCTV video footage confirmed what many people in the music industry knew was brewing: a moment of reckoning for one of the most influential hip-hop artists in history.

The clips of Sean "Diddy" Combs kicking his former girlfriend Cassie Ventura - as she lay motionless on the floor - cemented his downfall, despite his apology after the leak.

"I don't see a path for him to come back from this," said Amy DuBois Barnett, the former editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine, who has written about hip-hop culture.

Combs' reputation in the industry had been "chequered for some time," added Barnett. "Many people were aware of his pretty unbridled temper."

Combs - formerly known as P Diddy, Puff Daddy or Puffy - is one of the best-selling and most acclaimed artists of all time, with three Grammy Awards and millions of record sales to his name.

For years, nothing really affected his rise to icon status as an artist, producer and businessman. There were negative stories in the industry, said Barnett, but much of it stayed out of the public eye.

Last November, Ms Ventura settled a lawsuit against Combs - in which she accused him of rape and sexual trafficking - for an undisclosed sum. But Combs' lawyer said the settlement was "in no way an admission of wrongdoing".

Celebrities continued to voice support for him, but that ended with the CCTV video obtained by CNN and published last week.

The assault shown in the footage is brutal. After kicking Ms Ventura like a football, Combs, wearing just a towel, is seen dragging her across the floor.

The video appears to be a compilation of surveillance footage angles dated 5 March 2016, which CNN said was filmed at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, Los Angeles. In her lawsuit, Ms Ventura had described a March 2016 incident at that hotel, in which Combs allegedly attacked her.

A string of other lawsuits have since been brought against Combs for abuse, sexual misconduct and rape. The latest was filed on Tuesday by Crystal McKinney, a former model and winner of MTV's 1998 Model Mission competition.

She claimed she was "drugged and sexually assaulted" in 2003 by Combs following a fashion event in New York. BBC News has contacted Diddy's representatives for comment on the claims.

When the first lawsuits were filed, the rapper called the accusations "sickening" and said the alleged victims were looking for "a quick pay day".

But the video of the assault on Ms Ventura undermined those denials.

Combs was silent for two days after its release, before posting an apology to Instagram, admitting it was him in the tape and calling his actions "inexcusable".

"I was disgusted then when I did it," he said, "and I'm disgusted now."

"I went and I sought out professional help," he continued. "I got into going to therapy, going to rehab. I had to ask God for his mercy and grace. I'm so sorry."

Combs did not mention Cassie Ventura in his apology, and her lawyers hit back, saying: "Combs' recent statement is more about himself than the many people he has hurt."

The apology was "too little too late," said Camron Dowlatshahi, an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. "It shows the short-sightedness of Diddy, thinking he's not going to be held accountable and that he has enough money to take care of everything."

Barnett, who has written about misogyny in the rap industry, described the statement as "the most ill-advised apology ever". She suggested it was from the "classic 'famous man' playbook: deny, deny, deny. Get caught. Apologise, then talk about going to therapy."

"No-one's taking it seriously, particularly because he previously accused Cassie and others of being gold-diggers. That really angered a lot of people in the music industry."

In April, news helicopters on both the US east and west coasts filmed police raids on mansions linked to the rapper. They were part of an ongoing criminal investigation by law enforcement into sex trafficking.

The man who was idolised as a hip-hop legend has been lying low since then.

Family pictures with his daughters posted to Combs' Instagram account are in stark contrast to the images of him carrying out a violent assault.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said on Friday that it would not be able to bring charges due to the statute of limitations for assault. So where does the CCTV video, and the ongoing investigation, leave his career?

In his music, Diddy has often relied on collaborations with other A-list stars. His last album featured Mary J Blige, The Weekend, 21 Savage, and John Legend. He is extremely unlikely to be able to recreate such productions now.

But whether there will be an effect on his vast number of listeners is less clear. Fitness company Peloton has banned his music from its workout playlists already, according to TMZ, but other companies are yet to comment.

R Kelly continues to get millions of monthly listeners on Spotify, despite convictions for child sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, Kanye West experienced a peak in his monthly listeners last year, despite being dropped by brands for expressing antisemitic views.

Those who passed by Diddy's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week reflected on what the video meant to the rapper's fans.

"It's career-ending. I don't know how he's going to come back from this," said Mar Anthony, a Los Angeles local. "I was a fan when I was a kid, listening to Every Breath You Take (I'll Be Missing You). But what he did and the music, they're two different things.

"It's the same thing with Michael Jackson," he said, nodding towards another Walk of Fame star that lies not far away - in an apparent reference to allegations of child abuse made against that star.

Diddy "definitely deserves what is coming to him", said Prince Laurenz Hamlin, who was visiting LA. "But he still has built a legacy in the music industry. I think people will have to separate the art from the artist."

One woman, after snapping a photo of Combs' star, simply muttered "predator" as she walked away.

It is unclear who is currently advising Sean Combs. The law firm that previously issued denials on his behalf has said it no longer represents him.

Despite the civil lawsuits there have been no criminal charges filed against him. But the ongoing police investigation will no doubt be weighing heavily on the rapper.

"The Department of Homeland Security was involved [in the raids]," said Mr Dowlatshahi. "Just that fact alone shows the severity of what's going on here."