In 'Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,' We See How Bad Boy Records Reached Iconic Status
“Can I have a tissue please?” Sean Combs asks someone off camera during Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, a new documentary chronicling Bad Boy records and its 2016 anniversary tour. The tissue paper is made of printed dollar bills because, of course they are—this is Diddy’s world.
Directed by Daniel Kaufman, the film recently debuted on Apple Music and depicts the rise and rule of Combs’ record label and (if we’re honest) lifestyle as well as the team’s 2016 anniversary tour featuring nearly every living artist, sans Craig Mack, who found God. Puff, Nas, Jay-Z, Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, J Records founder Clive Davis, Total’s Keisha, Mary J. Blige, Bad Boy creative director Laurieann Gibson and more stop by with fresh interviews and archival footage.
Viewers get an inside look at the heavy lifting and endurance it took to create the label and Combs’ ultimate goal of intertwining Black culture with pop culture through artists like Blige and the late Notorious B.I.G.
More from ESSENCE
“Puff was B.I.G.’s older brother… [He showed him] it’s cool to be respected on the block, rap really tough and do 100 pull-ups on a light pole, but if you want to come out here, you better see this whole world,” Jay-Z says of how Puff molded B.I.G. in his early days.
WATCH: Diddy on Instilling #BlackGirlMagic in His Daughters
After giving Puff his first job at Uptown, Harrell recalls officially firing Puff while keeping him on the payroll and bankrolling studio time for new Bad Boy artists so he could pitch them to greener pastures. With hits for Jodeci and Mary J. Blige under his belt, Bad Boy was picked up by Clive Davis at Arista, where Puff released Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack as his first artists. The architect looks back at B.I.G.’s death and how it affected him then and now as well as how he pushed through his grief and confusion with more music.
As for the anniversary concert itself, that’s where more of the Bad Boy leader’s personality and eccentricity breaks through.
“I don’t want the Chrysler that looks like the Phantom, I want the Phantom,” Puff says after seeing his production crew’s run-through of the show’s lights and stage direction that are not up to his standards.
More flair appears when a thicker Ma$e visits Puff and the two conspire to wow their fans. The Harlem rapper recalls moments when he doubted Puff’s vision before finally giving in and succeeding with marketing moves that sold a flashy lifestyle… and saw Ma$e dressed in a shiny suit in the “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” video. Suffice to say, it took several weeks for the label head to convince the MC of that sartorial choice, but it worked. Lil’ Kim, Faith, Blige, the Lox and Total show up for practice and Keisha’s kids make everyone feel old by admitting they don’t know what “Juicy” is. Elsewhere, Blige recalls what she learned from the Uptown A&R back in the day.
“The biggest thing I took from Puff was not to be afraid or apologetic for what I was,” she says as clips of her in doorknocker earrings, a baseball jersey and jeans float by.
Energy, vision and a fair bit of honesty permeate Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, which feels part-documentary and part-infomercial for all things Bad Boy 2017 and beyond. This push typifies near the end when the lights go up on the opening night of the anniversary tour and nothing goes as planned.
Despite weeks of practice at a remote location, microphones don’t work, sound design acts up, Faith is nearly crushed by a stage elevator—it’s chaos. But the hiccups don’t hinder Puff for long. He collects himself and his team, gives a “Wall Street”-esque pep talk in a red suit accented with 50-11 gold chains and they collectively give America the Bad Boy reunion they want and you’ll wish you’d paid money to see—you know, the Phantom.
Watch Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story on Apple Music now.