LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sean “Diddy” Combs is often thinking of his old friend, the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., whose career he helped launch in the early ’90s.
The Grammy-winning rapper and producer said it’s the right time to commemorate his and B.I.G.’s legacies 20 years after his protege was gunned down in Los Angeles during the height of rap’s East Coast-West Coast rivalry.
Combs stars in the new documentary “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” which chronicles the rise of his label Bad Boy as a hip-hop powerhouse, culminating in a 2016 tour that honored its successes as well as B.I.G. The concerts brought together some of the late rapper’s frequent collaborators, including Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans.
Combs, 47, acknowledges his story is a part of history. So when the opportunity arose to chronicle his life, he agreed. If someone was going to tell it, Combs said he’d better do it himself.
“You have to get to a certain point to smell the roses,” he said. “If not, then you’ll get an award when you’re 60, you’ll be trying to smell the roses then and you can’t do the latest dance.”
“Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” which will be released on Apple Music on Sunday, arrives at a time when many others are reflecting on the gangster rap era.
“Straight Outta Compton” found critical and commercial success in 2015 depicting the rise of N.W.A. and its stars, Easy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Last week, Tupac Shakur’s biopic, “All Eyez On Me,” exceeded expectations by earning $27 million its opening weekend. “The Defiant Ones,” a HBO documentary series about producers Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, premieres on July 9.
Combs compared the multi-generational interest in ’90s hip-hop to previous documentaries about iconic rock bands, including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and U2.
“It was important to tell that story for the generations that were catching-up, that were there and that don’t know about it,” he said.
The 20 year mark is common when reconsidering major cultural moments, said Todd Boyd a professor of race and popular culture at the University of Southern California.
Boyd said hip-hop was viewed as a fad in the 1970s and early ’80s. He credits Dr. Dre and Combs with showcasing the genre’s viability.
“The culture is starting to recognize, appreciate and respect the contributions of people who have been able to do it over a long period of time,” said Boyd, who specializes in the history of hip-hop.
The genre is rooted in the history of violence and race, Boyd said. Both B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, and Shakur were shot to death during the mid-1990s East Coast-West Coast feud.
Director Daniel Kaufman weaved archival footage with new video to highlight both the immediate effect and ongoing aftermath of B.I.G.’s death. The film shines light on Faith Evans and Lil’ Kim’s reconciliation. Kim previously dated B.I.G., but Evans was married to the rapper at the time of his death in 1997.
“It was a blessing to see it happen — for two grown women to put their differences aside and just go to the love,” Combs said. “That’s what family is about.”
Family is how Combs runs his successful businesses. Forbes magazine recently named him the highest-paid celebrity. With his Sean John clothing line, a stake in Ciroc vodka and the Bad Boy reunion tour, Combs made $130 million between June 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017, the magazine reported.
Combs said he wants to continue being a platform for the next generation of artists, including two of his six children already in the entertainment industry. Quincy Brown, 26, is a series regular on Fox’s “Star,” while Christian Combs, 19, has a record deal with Bad Boy.
As for his next chapter, Combs said his success has always stemmed from trust, whether it was promoting B.I.G. or new artists.
“I built a reputation through all of that to be trusted with their stories — to be trusted with the content,” Combs said.
Follow Joseph Longo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/josephlongo–