Puff Daddy Talks 'Can't Stop Won't Stop' Documentary, 20th Anniversary of 'No Way Out' & The Importance of Black Excellence

Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic
Sean Combs attends the Can't Stop, Won't Stop: The Bad Boy Story premiere at Beacon Theatre on April 27, 2017 in New York City. 

For over 25 years, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs has hustled his way through the music industry. His unapologetic approach to hard work helped him forge an indomitable empire with Bad Boy Records in the 1990s. 

Powered by a high-octane roster consisting of The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, 112, The LOX, Total, Lil' Kim, Carl Thomas, and more, Puff assembled hip-hop's dream team despite several hindrances along the way, including the untimely death of his best friend Biggie in 1997.

In his new documentary titled Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story set to premiere June 25 on Apple Music, the film chronicles the label's highs and lows in the '90s. In hopes of regaining Bad Boy's momentum as a collective, Puffy attempts to do the impossible and creates a reunion tour. He then rallies his troops under a three-week time restraint to rehearse for their first comeback show at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. 

Billboard spoke to Combs about his upcoming documentary Can't Stop, Won't Stop, the meaning of "black excellence," the 20th anniversary of Puffy's first album No Way Out, and his thoughts on the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me.  

Throughout the Can't Stop documentary, you mentioned the importance of "black excellence." Who instilled that mantra into your life before you tackled the music industry? 

Puff Daddy: My father was a hustler back in the days of Harlem, and he would just dress to the nines. He was kind of meticulous about his style and his blackness. My mother was the same way growing up. It was instilled in me then. And then, I was able to go to Howard University and got some more instilled in me. Then, working with [Uptown Records founder] Andre Harrell, he tried to empower me to be me and to be unforgivingly black, and to be great at what I do. 

You briefly touched on Biggie wanting to begin a peace tour prior to his trip to Los Angeles in 1997. What would that tour have entailed? 

He wanted to do a promo tour like the one that he was on. That was his peace tour. That was going to be his intention. His intention was to make sure things got peaceful for everybody, so L.A. was a part of that peace promo tour. 

You compared your life to the Star Wars trilogy in the film. What similarities do you see between the two?

It's just the action. The evolution. Every part of the movie, you see the thing get more refined and go to a whole other level. It's just the love story that constantly stays in there. The Bad Boy versus everybody [mentality]. So I think, of course, all the drama and ups and downs that come in all those movies, but it's just trying to do something for the greater good and be fly about it too, you know?

I think that's what Star Wars is. [Laughs] With Dark Vader and all that. It's a fly movie. It ain't wack. It's probably the best movie franchise that we ever had. 

Craig Mack declined to appear on the Bad Boy Reunion Tour due to his religious beliefs. How disappointed were you and the team that he couldn't show up? 

I don't think anybody was disappointed. We kind of respected his wishes. I think [president of Bad Boy Entertainment] Harve [Pierre] was really, really disappointed. [Laughs] Harve and Craig used to perform together. So I think Harve was really crushed that he wasn't gonna be able to do that intro to "Flava in Your Ear." Besides that, we all respected where he was coming from.

In this game, man, people don't realize the music industry only has a 1 percent rate ratio, so sometimes it's very stressful and it brings you only to places that you can go to and should go to, which is God. We can respect that because if any of us is still here, we'd have to go to him, too. Sometimes, people can't walk back and forth in both worlds. 

You sat down with Lil' Kim in hopes of squashing her beef with Faith Evans during rehearsals. What exactly did you say to her? 

Well, I think because of how they are, they both had been through so much, so I know where they were mentally. I felt like they would have squashed it, though. I don't think I had a big play in doing that. They're their own women. They got together and they worked it out.

And they've been cool ever since. Lil' Kim just rocked out with Faith at [Hot 97's] Summer Jam. It's real. Everything y'all saw in the movie is real.

Especially at the beginning of the movie, when you were sitting with the doctor talking about your shoulder being injured again. Why don't you ever stop, despite all the injuries?

I know I gotta chill a little bit. [Laughs] I guess he got that out of the movie, though. The movie taught me lessons about myself. I was able to see times and remember times from that footage, like, "Damn. You was acting kind of f--king nuts then," or like, "Damn. You were an a--hole right then at that time." It made me deal with myself. I'm not saying I'm gonna stop, but I definitely need to slow down sometimes, and just enjoy it and not go so hard.

 

Even Superman slows down at some point. 

Man, that [shoulder injury] ain't even happen. I don't even know what the f--k that doctor was talking about. [Laughs

July 1 marks the 20th anniversary of your album No Way Out. If you can give us your favorite studio session from that album, which one would it be and why? 

Man, I would have to say "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" and "It's All About the Benjamins." Those were done together on the same day. Those were the first two records I've ever made. That was my most favorite session. And to make those two classic records in one session and also they were the first two records I put my voice on. 

What was going on during that session that made it so special? 

Man, we were just so hot. I was just so uber-confident. I just knew I had to talk it out. That's the style that kind of came out. It was just during a time when I felt unstoppable as an artist. Hearing all of our voices on those tracks [was special] when you listen to "All About the Benjamins." That's the way that session was. The hottest team in the game was actually doing a recording session and killing it. 

You teased fans with No Way Out 2 being your final album. How far along are you with that project? 

I got hit with God kind of slowing me down, and telling me not to go so hard, so I had to deal with an operation on my shoulder and my knee. That kind of slowed that down, and I had to more deal with that. Then, I had to put together the tour and deal with that. Then, I had to deal with this movie. So I don't really know what I'm doing in the future as far as that project, to be honest. 

Are you saying, "I need a hard break and I just want to enjoy life"?

Nah, I would just change gears. It's not as much of that, but as far as taking care of myself, I wouldn't say slowing down, but I'm working smarter. I'm not supposed to get to this level and not figure out a way to work smarter. I wanna go from being on the stage to becoming the stage, and empowering and investing in people that are like-minded. Whether it be entrepreneurs, or whether they're in the arts or film industry, I'm just really starting to invest in people, just the way that I've invested in artists. 

What were your thoughts on Tupac's biopic All Eyez on Me? How accurate was it in your eyes? 

I think the relationship between Biggie and 'Pac was extremely accurate. I didn't know the whole 'Pac story, as far as me knowing how it was with him and Jada, or some of the other things, like when he was with Digital Underground. As far as the situation that I knew about, as far as with Biggie and him, that was depicted right, spot-on. 

JAY-Z just became a father to twins. You're also a father with twin daughters. What's the best advice you would give him as a father now with twins? 

Get ready for two times the love. That's it. You know, a lot of people speak about the problems that's gonna come with kids or having that level of pressure, but your kids love you. Nobody loves you like your kids. So just get ready for a lot of love. 

You were just named the highest paid celebrity for 2017 by Forbes. With you being in the game for over 25 years, how have you managed to evolve with the times, especially since you're not as active in the music scene like you were before? 

Damn. I didn't really wait for the bubble to burst. I didn't wait for me to get cold. I just planned ahead. I just planned ahead, and saw the opportunity in different areas of business and went for it.

This is the dream that I dreamt. The dream is only gonna get even more beautiful. I don't even know if we'll be talking about these things that I did as much, or all of the things that's gonna come with the next chapter... I look forward to the next chapter. I think the movie Can't Stop, Won't Stop was the end of chapter seven. We have like 100 chapters in this motherf---er. So hold on and enjoy the ride!

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.