Robust is one way to explain the return of Sean "Diddy" Combs and his Bad Boy regime. Take the mogul’s latest and last album foray, Press Play.
The album features a full-bodied and impressive list of collaborators like Kanye West, Will.i.am, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Just Blaze, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell, Big Boi, Ciara, Timbaland, Twista, Shawnna, Nas, Cee-Lo, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, Jamie Foxx and Mary J. Blige, among several others like writing collaborator Pharaohe Monch. This forward-thinking Diddy has managed to blend all these talents without the album sounding like a compilation.
But, compile Diddy has - as it applies to his Bad Boy roster. The gloried and storied days of B.I.G., Faith, Ma$e and The Lox may be history, but Cassie, Yung Joc, 8Ball & MJG and Aasim mark a new era for the mogul. The self-proclaimed revolutionary speaks on the internet, the brief 50 Cent spat and the full life of the talented Mr. Combs.
AllHipHop.com: You have accomplished nearly everything a person could hope to achieve in entertainment. What made you do Press Play?
Diddy: Success is something that I've acquired. Music is something that I love. If it wasn't for music, I wouldn't have the blessings to do all the other things that I do.
AllHipHop.com: We've heard the album and the main thing is that it’s a fun album, very danceable. Why go that route?
Diddy: It was just important for me to stay in my lane. I make feel-good music. I can't be out there trying to compete with somebody else. I gotta do the best that I can do. I do music that moves you and music that evokes some emotion.
AllHipHop.com: You don't have any other Bad Boy acts on this album. Why not?
Diddy: I didn't go at this album like the CEO of Bad Boy. I went at this as an artist. I been there and I've done that. To be honest, a lot of these songs were to the level that they needed more experience. A lot of the artists I have now are very young. If you listen to the lyrical content, the sophistication, it had to be cats there were really doing this thing. I didn't want to put my artists in a position where they had to force something. This is like the all-stars of all-stars on this thing here. From the producers to the artists. As an artist, I just wanted to make the right decision.
AllHipHop.com: You also got personal on this album and even talked about your girlfriend Kim Porter on the song "Making It Hard"…
Diddy: You know, I wanted to talk about relationships and that's something that we all go through. I can't be shooting nobody on no record, I ain't mad at nothing, and it’s something that I have experience with. You know, I haven't been totally successful with [love], but I have experience with it. You make music that you can be honest with and that people can relate to. And I wanted to be totally honest and give the women I am in a relationship with to have a chance to be heard on the album through the likes of Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, and Keyshia Cole and talk about how it is hard to love me. How there were times that they felt that way and by the end of the record, you can tell I have learned something, but you have to go through heartache and pain to learn that something.
AllHipHop.com: Would you say you are happy in your relationship right now?
Diddy: I'm definitely happy in my relationship, and I'm happy in my life in general. I'm coming to a point where you gotta take the good days with the bad days. That's the way life is: you wake up and you do your best.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned staying in your lane...there have been instances with songs like, "Hate Me Now" by Nas and "My Downfall" by Biggie where you were angry. How have you changed or evolved since those days?
Diddy: As time goes on, I realize how powerful music is and its important to be honest on record, and it’s also important to put positive feelings out there. Because, whatever you say on record is most likely going to come true. That's how powerful it is. When I make music, I don't censor myself, but I try to make sure I pay attention to what I say and make sure I want that kind of energy out there.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people felt that the song “I Am” where you go "I'm richer, b***h," was a reply to 50 Cent's disses. We now know that's not true, but was that helpful in diffusing your beef so fast?
Diddy: No, I think that situation went away, because two men got together and talked. I've learned that communication and the lack of communication is why there are so many beefs in Hip-Hop. It’s [because of] a lack of communication. If you look a man in his eyes or speak to him one-on-one, nine times out of 10 you are going to realize that you're just wasting your time [beefing]. [50 Cent and I] are so powerful in the game and if we're going to have a problem, it needs to be a real problem. If it ain't a real problem, we need to be uplifting our people.
AllHipHop.com: Since you mention uplifting the people, would you consider yourself pro-Black?
Diddy: Yeah, definitely. I know for a fact I'm pro-Black. When you walk through Times Square [and see a huge billboard with his fist in the air], it’s clear that my whole history and legacy is to inspire my people and be a revolutionary in the sense of being "the first." The first to have a number one fragrance [as an African American], first to have a CFDA Award [Council of Fashion Designers of America], first to have a store on Fifth Avenue [in New York City]. We're [Bad Boy] still the last standing label out there, one of the only Black-owned labels - truly Black owned. Majority [Black] owned fashion labels. Television production companies. It doesn't get much more pro-Black. People talk about, but they ain't doing it.
AllHipHop.com: You have a lot of subliminal messages that you put out there like "The Future" postcard [promoting Press Play, which had an uplifting message, and during the Citizen Change campaign, you had kids with t-shirts that spelled out "Revolution." Diddy: Yeah, that postcard was for "Vote or Die" and it was just saying that the kids are our future. I like to do marketing things that entertain and excite people. I like to have fun with what I do and push it to a new level of creativity. AllHipHop.com: Years ago, you said, "In 10 years, we'll still be on top" and it seems that that has come true. Diddy: What people are witnessing is the rebirth of Bad Boy. I must admit there were about two, two-and-a-half years where I wasn't focused and the fans and the press pulled my card about it. And I got on my job. I can take my knocks like anybody. But, I will get busy. AllHipHop.com: What had you distracted? Diddy: I just was tired of doing the same thing every day and I just wanted to do some other things. I stepped away by design, but I should have had things [in the office] focused and passed down to other people before I did.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think kids get a false sense of what it takes to make it in this game based on the flaunting of ice and riches?
Diddy: Yeah, I definitely think that, by our own faults, and not in a negative way, but I think people from me to Hov [Jay-Z] to Nas - we put out there the aftereffect of success. I think that it’s important to show the money, the cars, the cribs, and all that to show that it is attainable. But, at this point right now, it’s also important not to mislead people. Let them know it takes that grind. That's why on the promo tour, I visit schools and I talk to kids and let them know, "It’s going to be three times harder for you than a person of another color to be successful." It’s gonna be three times harder and If you ain't willing to do that, you are going to be on that corner at 38 [years old] mad, looking corny. Like that 38 year old that's out there now complaining and asking can they hold something. If you want to get busy and get paper like I'm getting it, you got to put in that grind, that work. That's real talk right there.