There is a happenstance moment midway through Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop that reveals the lofty standard to which Sean “Puffy/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy” Combs held his empire up against.
It had been many years since the Hall of Fame caliber lineup that once all occupied the Bad Boy offices (and Billboard charts) had all been together. The reformed family — Lil Kim (who was never officially signed to Bad Boy), Ma$e, Faith Evans, 112, Total, The LOX, Carl Thomas, Black Rob, French Montana and choreographer and nucleus Laurieann Gibson — exuberantly occupied a private venue in the small town of Lititz, PA, two weeks before their multi-million-dollar-grossing reunion tour to tighten up the bolts.
The crew, including a pair of overeager assistants, anticipated the arrival of Diddy to give his stamp of approval to the set-up … only to have him proverbially unbuckle his Gucci belt so he would have no obstacles as he proceeded to drop a deuce on the whole operation.
To the untrained eye, the stage lights looked stadium-ready — perfect to illuminate adoring fans who would be taken back to their childhood glory days as timeless rap standards such as “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” “Only You,” “All About The Benjamins (Remix)” and “Bad Boy 4 Life” blared through the sound system.
But when it comes to Diddy, you have to squeeze your eyes closed and envision your utmost definition of perfection and then open them and dream harder.
Press Play: Watch the entire Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story right here via Apple Music.
A militant moment like that shows why the Bad Boy name has been relevant for the past 20 years, even when there was newer and flashier competition on the market. The film is directed by visionary TV vet Daniel Kaufman, who Diddy lets capture him at his most vulnerable and most villainous. From berating cameramen for having wack energy to admitting that his performance during the homecoming Reunion Tour opener at Barclays Center was anything but great, Diddy’s passion for the culture is a direct reflection of the accolades he’s personally amassed over the years.
During the red carpet premiere in Hollywood, Kaufman tells HipHopDX that Diddy immediately felt comfortable letting him helm the film upon their initial meeting.
“I wasn’t out to sugarcoat [nor] was I out to vindicate necessarily,” Kaufman admitted. “I hope that [the younger generation] can see the actual cultural legacy of Bad Boy. It’s very easy for them to see one side of Puff — The Showman — but the music that he made really did help change culture. And he helped make it possible for a young black man to be a millionaire. He helped set that example.”
The accolades are aplenty. But one could say that Diddy has never fully gotten his props for keeping the ship afloat when it smacked headfirst into an iceberg on a dreadful March evening in Los Angeles.
Perhaps the most rewarding moment of the highly engaging doc is The Notorious B.I.G. His 1997 murder would (unfortunately) go on to become one of Hip Hop’s biggest unsolved mysteries and the timeline of his life means he missed out on the merits of being covered by proper rap media. His visual likeness isn’t a consistent pillar of social media clips or GIF memes, so to hear him speak on his mentor and his contributions to rap is a welcome addition to the film’s sentimental value.
There’s also a candid moment taken from a studio session that alludes to his Dick Wolf-esque Life After Death cut “Niggas Bleed” taking 30 days to write (“It’s unacceptable,” Puff chided a sheepish-looking Biggie).
Despite the earnest look into the ups and downs of running an infallible lifestyle and brand, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop does miss out on an opportunity to gauge the mindset of several of the label’s artists, some of whom, at one point in time, were considered defectors.
Throughout the film, nostalgia and emotive reflections were constantly on the up (notably because everyone was getting paid) but it would have been nice to hear a clear-cut reason for Total’s dissolution (Kisha Epps openly admits she hadn’t seen her former bandmates in 16 years — dafuq?) and how Ma$e wrestled with his faith to be able to perform secular rap songs.
But in the end, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop proves that even a seemingly perfect family is indeed imperfect and their next 20 years will be just as exciting.