“Black Panther” has been widely revered as a seminal piece of black cinema, setting a precedent for increased diversity in Hollywood. But Sean “Diddy” Combs is skeptical about the staying power of African-American expression in an industry that still lacks ample opportunities for people of color.
In a cover story for Variety, Combs shared his thoughts on Marvel’s first tentpole with a majority-African-American cast, as well as on Hollywood’s limitations for people of color at large.
“‘Black Panther’ was a cruel experiment,” Combs said. “We live in 2018, and it’s the first time that the film industry gave us a fair playing field on a worldwide blockbuster, and the hundreds of millions it takes to make it.”
While he acknowledged the significance of “Black Panther’s” success, he also pointed out the rarity of the opportunity, as well as financial discrepancies that result from powerful companies turning African-American culture into product.
“We only get 5% of the venture capital invested in things that are black owned — black-owned businesses, black-owned ideas, black-owned IP,” he said. “You can’t do anything without that money, without resources. But when we do get the resources, we over-deliver. When Adidas invests in Kanye and it’s done properly, you have the right results. When Live Nation invests in artists and puts them in arenas the same way U2 would be, you have the right results. ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Black-ish,’ fashion; it’s all about access. If you’re blocked out of the resources, you can’t compete. And that’s my whole thing — to be able to come and compete.”
Combs extrapolated his commentary to the music industry, which he called out for its lack of people of color in executive positions. In support of his claims, the musician cited that “there’s no black CEO of a major record company,” a trend that is reflected in the entertainment industry as a whole.
“You have these record companies that are making so much money off our culture, our art form, but they’re not investing or even believing in us,” Combs said, referring to hip-hop’s commercial dominance. “For all the billions of dollars that these black executives have been able to make them, [there’s still hesitation] to put them in the top-level positions. They’ll go and they’ll recruit cats from overseas,” he continues. “It makes sense to give [executives of color] a chance and embrace the evolution, instead of it being that we can only make it to president, senior VP.”