Sean "Diddy" Combs says that taking Diddy-Dirty Money, his group with vocalist-writers Dawn Richard (formerly of Danity Kane) and Kalenna Harper, on the road was part of his plan for the trio from its inception.
"I always said people will really start to get the album (2010's 'Last Train to Paris') once they see it live," Diddy tells Billboard.com. "I think that's the mentality of any performer, or even just taking a page out of any rock 'n' roll band or group; in order to sell your vision, you've got to get it out on the road and really work it."
All three are also hoping that the 20-date tour, which kicks off Thursday (April 14) in Minneapolis, will firmly establish Diddy-Dirty Money as a group beyond its famous namesake.
"I think this tour and playing live is going to rectify the fact we're not background singers," says Harper, who's written songs for Aretha Franklin, the Pussycat Dolls, Ciara, Christina Millian and Charlotte Church. "We're all three separate solo artists who came together to do a project. We are the reason (Diddy) decided to get up and do music again in this form." Richard adds that, "People think it's a dictatorship, so it's exciting for us to show them this is a band and let them see how great we work together. We want people to see three creative powerhouses can come together and do something that's soulful and raw and maybe that they haven't felt in a long time."
Diddy concurs, adding, "It's definitely an opportunity to establish this as a group. I can't wait for people to see how strong the girls are, just in general. That's the new revelation that's being brought to the situation."
Diddy says the group is planning a "visually engaging" show that will feature "a representation of the guests, visually" from the "Last Train to Paris" album, including vocalists such as Drake, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Skylar Grey, Rick Ross, Trey Songz and others. The repertoire will also go beyond Diddy-Dirty Money to offer up songs from each of the members' own catalogs.
"God has blessed me with so many hits that the place is gonna be rockin'," Diddy says. "You get it all. You get the introduction to Dirty Money. You also get the respect of the years of hits I've been people out. You get your money's worth."
Richard adds that, "The 'Last Train to Paris' material is the driver here; I think people will be pleasantly surprised with how great these records sound in their live form. And we're trying new and innovative ways of making the old hits more 'us' as well. We're going to visit the Diddy hits, the Biggie hits, but you're going to see a transformation of the old and the new. It's gonna be a party."
"Last Train to Paris" debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 when it came out in December and has sold more than 200,000 copies so far. The single "Hello Good Morning," which features T.I., was certified gold, while "Coming Home," with Grey, hit No. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. Diddy-Dirty Money filmed videos for all of the songs on the album, which Diddy notes has spurred airplay for many of them. "They were supposed to be viral, but (radio) liked the videos so much they're playing (the songs) on their own, which is great."
Diddy, Richard and Harper say they view Diddy-Dirty Money as a going concern, though Richard and Harper are also working on solo albums they plan to release this year. With more than 60 tracks created for "Last Train to Paris," Diddy says some of the unreleased material will come out virally, but the trio isn't thinking about a second album just yet.
"We signed onto the project for the long haul," he explains, "so we've got more to work with for this (album) before we start jumping to 'What are we gonna do next?' What we're doing next is we're going out on the road, which is a huge undertaking. I usually plan ahead with certain things, but with this thing you've got to keep your eye on the ball. So our focus is really with the tour and the next single before we say, 'Oh, we're gonna work on another album.' We're still working this album, you know what I'm saying?"