Love and forgiveness. Those are the two themes that Sean “Diddy” Combs is embracing for his first-time stint as host and executive producer of the 2022 Billboard Music Awards. As the countdown to the May 15 telecast begins, the impresario has started raising the curtain a bit about what’s been happening behind the scenes.
When it was announced earlier this week that Travis Scott would be joining a performer lineup that includes Morgan Wallen, Silk Sonic, Ed Sheeran and Megan Thee Stallion, Combs noted on Instagram, “I made a request; I made a demand. I said my brother Travis Scott has to perform … And NBC said yes.”
This will be Scott’s first awards show performance since a crowd crush during his show at the Astroworld Festival in Houston last November killed 10 people. It will also be Wallen’s first awards show performance since being barred from attending and performing at various ceremonies in 2021 after he was caught on camera saying the N-word.
Combs himself has appeared on the Billboard Music Awards several times dating back to 1997 when he won an award and also presented a posthumous award to The Notorious B.I.G.’s mother. During a May 6 press junket in Beverly Hills, Combs — aka “Primetime Puff” — spoke with Billboard about “uncanceling” Scott and Wallen, making the BBMAs “a family affair” and formally returning to music through his newest venture, Love Records.
What was your initial reaction when asked to be host and executive producer?
The first thing I thought was, “Why would they think that I would do that?” Then I thought again and I was like it’s because I’m the best choice. I know how to host; I know how to control a frequency. So yo, it makes sense. Also, because I’m returning to music, it’s like the biggest coming out party that you get to have live on network TV. They call me Primetime Puff, so I just jumped right into the energy.
Why is it important to you to have Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott perform?
The mood of the show is about love and forgiveness. As a musical family, none of us are saints; none of us are without things that happen to them in life. So one of the things I’m doing directly is un-canceling the canceled. That’s breaking news because people haven’t been about uncanceling. But canceling is a trend that needs to stop.
Travis went through a tragedy; Morgan [used the N-word] while talking to his boy. People make mistakes. Now we’re moving on with love and respect for everybody that was hurt or affected. It’s time to forgive. To have Morgan and Travis be able to come back and touch the stage again with the mindset of getting a second chance at life. Everybody in the room is getting a second chance at life, you know, because we’re back inside with no masks on. We need love and I’m excited about celebrating that.
I wanted to make the whole show a family affair with people that I love and respect. Like Mary J. Blige receiving the Icon Award, which is long overdue. After what she did at the Super Bowl, her performance is going to be exciting. We will have other show-stopping performances with people who are also truly into the art, including Silk Sonic, Machine Gun Kelly and Burna Boy. This is going to be a special night.
Will you also be performing?
You’re definitely going to see a step or two; whatever I’ve got to do. I’m the consummate entertainer. And if you all don’t seem hype enough, I may need to do one of my numbers back from whatever. I’ve got a catalog now, and it will get you up on your feet no matter who you are. So we’re going to see what’s up.
What one memory stands out from the first time you attended the BBMAs?
It was the first time that I rented a private jet. I took The Lox and the Bad Boy family. But we only had nine seats and there were 13 of us, all in army fatigues. So three of us had to lay on the floor the whole entire trip [laughs]. But we’d made it from Harlem and Brooklyn to flying on a private jet and going to the Billboard Awards. It was just a great time.
What do you want to accomplish through Love Records?
I’m on an R&B mission… a mission to bring back a genre of music that had employed so many musicians and writers. I also want to bring back, you know, our soul. That’s a part of our culture. Not singing and sounding like computers to the point where we lose ourselves. So I’m here to bring back the R&B magic because R&B is love.
This new album is like an R&B Super Bowl featuring artists whose voices I love, with my production and direction underneath. We also have a star-studded array of young producers and songwriters. I love collaborating. I did some stuff with London on da Track, for example, that’s crazy. We’ll be announcing more details down the line. But to do this release with Motown and [CEO/chairwoman] Ethiopia Habtemariam is a blessing and perfectly fits my narrative. It’s always been a dream of mine to work with her. And [Motown founder] Berry Gordy’s blueprint has always been such a big muse for me. I’ve just remixed and updated it.
The BBMAs will broadcast live coast-to-coast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 15, at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC, and will stream live on Peacock. The show will honor the year’s top artists on the Billboard charts in 62 categories.