A warts-and-all history of how Sean “Diddy” Combs built one of pop music’s biggest empires
When mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs filmed the reconciliations and rehearsals for 2016’s massive Bad Boy Family Reunion concert, he hoped to produce a music documentary similar to Madonna’s 1991 backstage whirlwind Truth or Dare. “What happened,” he says, “was something way different and way more complex and profound. … I was just intending on having some cameras backstage and having it be about the show – and it really turned into [being] about out our lives.”
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story, directed by Daniel Kaufman and available exclusively on Apple Music, is a documentary that tells the story of the record label that released more than 10 platinum albums in the 1990s, breaking artists like Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Faith Evans and Total. But it’s also an intimate look at its leader, providing a look at his steely, uncompromising vision with testimonies from Jay Z, Jimmy Iovine, Clive Davis, Nas and more. (As Nas comments about seeing young Combs in his show promoter days: “How did he get backstage? How did he get on stage? This dude is everywhere.”)
“I was telling people that when I watched the movie it’s like me doing … You ever hear about when people go into Peru and they do ayahuasca?” Combs says. “And they said your life flashes in front of you, and you get to deal with some things?”
This unflinching look means you get a glimpse into Combs’ uncut emotions. You can see Combs as the angry manager dressing down his musicians (“Y’all playing this shit like we a wedding band or something. … This shit’s not the jazz festival”). You can see the vulnerable idealist despondent after a show didn’t go perfectly (“It was, for me, probably one of the worst shows of my life. Maybe I tried to do too much. And, you know, I’m just disappointed in myself, because I know I can do 70 percent better no matter what.”). And – in one memorable scene – he literally shows his ass to get a shot from a doctor.
“For me, the truth isn’t really hard,” Combs explains, pointing to his history in reality TV and his habit of filming himself since he was 19. “I thought it was important for me to just give it to ’em raw, and not be so polished up. So whether my hair was fucked up, whether my stomach was hanging out, whether my ass was out, whether I was going through some depression, whatever it is, you could actually see what’s going on.”
“If anything it adds on to the myth of a superhero, but it dispels the myth that a superhero can’t be human,” he adds. “When I’m doing what I’m doing, I’m actually, in my head, believing I’m a superhero. But I’m a superhero that’s human, banged up, burnt out and went through a lot.”
Beyond the gorgeous documentary and massive tour, Bad Boy has been celebrating its legacy as of late. Last year, they released a four-disc retrospective box set and Diddy even returned to rapping on 2015’s mixtape MMM (Money Making Mitch). But the mogul is quick to correct anyone who thinks this means the label is looking back.
“It’s not looking back as much as it is understanding the power of history, and making sure the history gets written on some fair terms,” he says. “I think it’s important to pay homage to the success that I’ve had with my whole team. It wasn’t really about me, it was about all of these people that believed in this dream and they should be written into history just like Motown should or the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or anybody else.
“I felt it was more like, instead of looking back, to me it was more like a celebration,” he says. “‘Cause we never took time. You see us have parties and stuff like that, but we never took time to celebrate the monumental success that we’ve have, together as a family and with our fans. It’s just something that was overdue. It’s important to commemorate your hard work if it changed the world, if it changed culture. Humbly speaking, I feel like that’s what Bad Boy did.”