“Bad Boy is like the story of the century,” Sean “Diddy” Combs once told director Daniel Kaufman. “If we were going to tell the history of Bad Boy, it would have to be a miniseries.”
The 29-year-old director tried anyway. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story, which premieres Apr. 27 at the Tribeca Film Festival, attempts to condense the history of the influential record label and its ultra-driven founder into 80 minutes. Like any mid-’90s Bad Boy hit, the project had a great hook: a pair of 20th-anniversary reunion concerts at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in May 2016, which eventually expanded to a full tour that fall. The rehearsals for the reunion — which featured stars like Lil’ Kim, Faith Evans, Mase, 112 and The Lox — provide context for archival flashbacks to key moments in the label’s story, from its role in bringing blinged-out hip-hop into the mainstream to the murder of its greatest artist, The Notorious B.I.G.
Combs, who founded Bad Boy in 1993, has his perfectionist streak on vivid display in the documentary as he attempts to wrangle his old cohorts for the reunion shows. In one scene, after getting his first look at the stage setup in a Pennsylvania warehouse, Combs rails against the set design and delivers a treatise on the “God lighting” he wants to see. “His complications make him more real,” says Kaufman, “and they don’t make him less respectable. You see him as a guy who is fiercely chasing his goals.”
The film also offers some surprises for diehard fans, including a reunion of two former rivals: Evans and Lil’ Kim. Kaufman says the two “have been very hot and cold with each other since the late ’90s,” and that watching them reconcile during a late-night rehearsal turned into one of the doc’s most powerful moments. “Faith and Kim were just dancing together like they were young again,” he says. “The music really did bring them together at that moment.”