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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Puffy becomes P Diddy
The rapper with his mother - Janice
Rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs is changing his name to P Diddy, just weeks after he was found not guilty on charges of gun possession and bribery.

The 31-year-old vocalist and producer, also known as Puff Daddy was found not guilty of charges of possession of a weapon in connection with a 1999 shooting at a New York club.

I'm going to take a leave of absence just to be Sean Combs, have time to think about what's the next level I can play on

Sean "Puffy" Combs

Combs told MTV News - in his first interview since his acquittal - he was going to change his nickname in a bid to put the past behind him.

"No more Puff Daddy - the first week in June, we're going to have a name-change ceremony," he said.

"I'm not doing it as serious as Prince. I just want something fresh.

"I'm rocking with P Diddy just now."

Combs said that the nickname had been suggested by his friend, the late rapper Notorious BIG, who was shot in 1996.

He has used the name P Diddy as an alias in record credits for work he does on other musicians' work and in a guest appearance on a new single from rapper G-Dep.

Puff Daddy and Jennifer Lopez
Puff Daddy with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez in 1999
Though Combs has been cleared of the recent charges, he may now face other lawsuits from parties seeking more than $1bn ($638m) in damages over the incident.

Combs' then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, was with him on the night of the New York shooting and was initially arrested with him.

Lopez was never charged and the couple split while the court case was on-going.

Combs said he is going to take a two month break to revaluate his personal and professional life.

"I've got to take a break," he said.

"I'm going to take a leave of absence just to be Sean Combs, have time to think about what's the next level I can play on."

The rapper said he believed his prosecution had been motivated by the money the witnesses stood to gain if he was found guilty.

Sean "Puffy" Combs faced up to 15 years in jail during his trial
"A lot of people want to make money without working hard," said Combs.

"When they see an opportunity, they take it."

Combs' co-defendant and associate Jamal Barrow, 21, was found guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, charges that carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

He will be sentenced in April.

Combs said he planned to visit him in prison within weeks.

"He's definitely somebody whose life shouldn't be wasted," he said.

"I don't abandon anybody."

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See also:

17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Puffy: The road to innocence
17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Puff Daddy's life of rhyme
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Lopez stays out of witness box
15 Feb 01 | Entertainment
The making of America's hippest couple
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy and Lopez split
17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Puff Daddy cleared of gun charges
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