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Sean “Diddy” Combs (aka Puff Daddy) is nothing if not a shrewd and determined business man.
This is illustrated repeatedly in his powerful new documentary Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story, which chronicles Combs’ and his record label’s precipitous rise in the mid-1990s to the top of the music business, as well as the trials and tribulations he faced in putting together last year’s 20th-anniversary Bad Boy reunion shows in two weeks’ time and with artists who hadn’t performed in years.
But the rap mogul’s acumen is also on full display in how he produced the new documentary. This can be seen in his decision to partner with two of most powerful music business entities on the planet to produce and distribute his film: Live Nation and Apple Music, respectively.
On Thursday, the same day as the documentary’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (with performances by Combs, Mase, Lil Kim and Faith Evans, among others), it was announced that Apple Music will have the exclusive rights to Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop starting June 25.
“I went to the [Bad Boy reunion] concert and thought it was incredible,” Apple Music chairman and CEO Jimmy Iovine tells Billboard. “I think Puff and Bad Boy’s story is incredible, and one that a lot of people can relate to in any genre or in any business. His story is powerful. He really overcame a lot to get to where he’s at today, and the documentary shows that.”
While exact terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Apple Music will have exclusive rights to the doc for at least the next year. The music platform has already announced its plan to create exclusive video content for its users. This includes a deal with James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” franchise; Dr. Dre’s Vital Signs, a semi-autobiographical scripted series; and Planet of the Apps, a show featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Alba and will.iam offering mentorship to app developers.
“We have a bunch of other stuff that we can’t talk about yet because the deals aren’t done,” Iovine says, “but we’re starting to turn it up.” The former head of Interscope and Beats says that most of the content will be things “that people are involved in with pop culture and that we think will be great for our audience.”
There’s little doubt now in how compelling the new Diddy doc is, especially seeing the rap mogul in a more revealing and unvarnished light than ever before.
“He’s so vulnerable and human in this,” says Live Nation Productions head Heather Parry, who also produced the recent Eagles of Death Metal documentary that HBO optioned. “The access we got was incredible,” she says. “We were in the shower with him, we see him getting a B12 shot in his underwear and then how upset he is with how the first night of the show went. He’s vulnerable, but you see how much he loves and cares for his Bad Boy family.”
And a sometimes fractious family it is. Bringing together the warring widows of Lil Kim and Faith Evans was no easy feat, but Combs seemed to deftly manage the situation as he might a disruption in the Ciroc supply chain. Same goes for a saved Mase and the support and encouragement he gives the reunion show’s creative director and his longtime associate, who was under an inordinate amount of pressure to produce the Bad Boy shows in little time.
The documentary itself seemed to mirror a similar time constraint. “[Combs] comes in to Live Nation to talk about the tour and and he was, like, ‘It would be really great to document it,'” Parry recalls. “When we finally decided to do it, we had about three weeks to get our act together and find a director and we had to do that quickly. I have a great boss in [Live Nation CEO] Michael Rapino, who graciously funded it so we could get started.”
Combs had wanted to enlist Mark Romanek to direct, but he was unable. Though, as with many things about this project, serendipity seemed to have a hand in it.
“I went to a friend’s book release, which was a photo book, and there was Mark Romanek,” Parry recalls. “I said, ‘With all due respect, who is you that is available right now?’ And Mark, who is so sweet and kind and generous, said, ‘I actually have a guy for you.’ The next day I met Daniel Kaufman, who became our director. Two days later, I gave a great treatment to Puff and he was hired and we were on our ways to Barclays [Center].”
The film, too, has its chance moments. Barclays Center just happened to have a cancelation the night after the originally scheduled Bad Boy reunion show that also happened to fall on Biggie’s birthday, which is when all the magic seemed to coalesce.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop features a number of legendary music execs in addition to Iovine. Hearing Uptown Records’ Andre Harrell (who is also one of the film’s producers) recall how his then-intern Combs ran 10 blocks in a flash when he asked him to do an errand is incredibly revealing, as is hearing Arista’s Clive Davis tell how Combs charmed him at a time when rap had yet to be universally accepted.
The film also contains a number of rare images and video. “We found a treasure trove in the Bad Boy offices,” says Parry. “We have the young Puff on camera, a young Kim and Faith and stuff from Biggie [Smalls, aka Christopher Wallace], some of which has been seen before.”
Of course the death of Notorious B.I.G. hangs over the entire film, and shaped the Bad Boy family like nothing else. There’s an incredibly poignant scene where Combs calls Smalls‘ mom Violetta just to check in, like he would his own mother.
“I knew this was a story that should be shared with the world,” Combs said in a statement. “Heather Parry and Live Nation Productions, and director Daniel Kaufman, helped create this very special documentary. Now I’m blessed to also be working with Apple to showcase the film and share Bad Boy’s history and impact with fans. The support Live Nation, Apple and everyone on the team has given to this project is a true testament to the Bad Boy legacy.”
Spoken like the music business genius he is.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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