He's a multi-aliased rapper, an actor and a fashion mogul, and his intense turn as an ambivalent striver in the TV-movie adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun airs Feb. 25 on abc. Sean Combs will now take your questions
What exactly do you do for a living? Sulav Bhatta, Nepal
Oh, man. I am still trying to find the answer myself. I am an entertainer. I am an entrepreneur. I am a producer. I like to keep people on the edge of their seats.
What connection do you have with the character you portray in A Raisin in the Sun? Shirley Jones Luke, Boston
A very strong connection. A lot of people think that because I have been successful, I have forgotten that I grew up in Harlem. My father was killed when I was 3 years old, so I also grew up in a house with three womensame as Walter Lee. The anxiety that you feel when you may not become someone that you want to be, I was able to relate to that.
Was it harder to play Walter Lee on Broadway than on TV? Alex Traum, Bellmore, N.Y.
It was. I never did any live theater or had a starring roleit was at such an infantile stage of my acting career, and I wasn't as experienced as the other actors. I knew I had to take other extremes, so I built the set in my living room. I wanted to live in the surroundings I was going to play in.
What factor makes a record a sure hit? Jefferson Doronio-Balila, Manila
Melody. When you hear a Beatles' melody or Marvin Gaye, it changes everything around you. You ever see those commercials where somebody's someplace and then the whole room changes? Melody does that.
Do you feel the culture of vanity in rap and hip-hop has given young people a skewed reality of what is important in life? Linsey Jones, Geneva, Ill.
A lot of things affect people's views if they let their views be affected. A weak-minded person who was going to do something negative or be vain was going to do that whether it was the music or somebody else that affected him.
Whom do you consider the most influential musician from the pre-hip-hop era? Harold Grant, San Antonio
James Brown. He opened it up and let you know there weren't any boundaries in music. You could chant, scream or grunt. You could say things people don't understand. He used to say he was my godfather. He would say, "Son, listen. I have to tell you something important: olive oil. Every day I want you to put it in your hair. It's gonna make your hair strong."
How do you know if a business has potential? Gary Chin, Malaysia
It's tricky. You have to invest a lot of money and lose money. I invested in a company that's going to lose $8 million. But that wasn't the way to gauge success. It's about building a trademark.
Was it more challenging to build brand names and a career or to run the New York City Marathon? Rob Opaleski, Chicago
My career. I could have stopped the marathonit was one of the most beautiful things I ever did. There's not a lot of things where a real macho guy will say, "Yo. That was kinda impressive." [Laughs.] It was one of my shining moments, but I'll never do it again.
Do you ever wish you'd finished college? Rafi Katz, Silver Spring, MD.
I'm just not that type of person. As soon as I got out of the womb I was ready to do this. Then there's other timesI'm not really high-tech computer-savvy, and there's some things that I do have weaknesses with. I don't know if school would have made that better for me. I'm cool with the way I've turned out.
What name will be on your headstone? All of them? Leah Hanolanontario, Canada
I have a plan to live to 500, so that's not going to come anytime soon. But when that joyous day comes, it'll be Sean John Combs.