Screenings and Venues:
Friday April 28, 9pm at Cinépolis Chelsea
Saturday April 29, 6:30p & Sunday April 30, 3pm at Regal Cinemas Battery Park
Sean Combs, known to the world as Diddy, Puff Daddy, and other monikers, is an uncertified genius. As the founder of Bad Boy Records, home to such hip-hop legends as Lil’ Kim, Faith Evans, Craig Mack, 112, and the artist that put the record label on the map, the late Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls, Diddy’s craftsmanship of music culture, that genius, comes with an ego that could fill the Barclay’s Center stadium in Brooklyn, and actually did.
To celebrate Biggie’s 2016 birthday, Diddy and company conceived of a celebratory reunion tour of all of its artists. Having to pull it together in an insanely small amount of time, he reunites his Bad Boy family over the course of a frantic three week rehearsal period, providing the basis of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story. Now even if you’re familiar with Bad Boy’s history, this revisiting of Combs’ meteoric rise through the music industry, his creation of what he’s dubbed ‘Black excellence,’ is deftly covered in seeing how the whole tour comes together. While the history lesson is memorable, using behind-the-scenes footage of Combs, Uptown Records guru Andre Harrell (Diddy’s mentor and first boss), Biggie and his subsequent murder, and other notables, it’s the initial reunions and rehearsal footage that makes the film illuminating.
This unfurls from a virtuous meeting with former Bad Boy artist and current reverend Ma$e, in which , these now ‘men’ converse and learn from each other, humanizing Diddy to the audience, and extends into the rehearsal where Faith Evans, wife of Biggie Smalls, and Lil’ Kim, girlfriend of Biggie (even when he and Faith were married) are avoiding one another, the ladies of Total, most of whom haven’t performed in years, try to get back into their groove, and others work to uphold the Bad Boy vibe. Seeing this process, while Diddy and his creative director and choreographer Laurie Ann Gibson butt heads over the near-impossible progress of it all, but still unite as a father and mother to the entire crew, is enlightening and all together sweet.
Diddy talks throughout the film about ‘fun and freedom’ and mimics Nina Simone directly about how freedom equals no fear. What artists provide for the world is the language, the visuals, and the beat to find your place – and Diddy grinds his people to perfection to make that freedom happen. It’s what we all want but don’t all work hard enough to achieve – but he has, and failed, and done so again numerous times. Of course, that he also feels that people only go from “Bad Boy to God” because of his numerous stars who left music to find religion lends to his complexity, though not necessarily in a fully complementary way.
Naturally the concert ends the film, and does so in an amusing narrative that first shocks you, then makes you feel totally vibrant. The closing credits are also must see, with Kaufman closing out what felt like one of the greatest concerts ever – especially if this was the soundtrack to your youth like it was for me – into a menagerie of Bad Boy delights.
BaL Festival Rating: 4/5
Directors: Daniel Kaufman
Executive Producers: Michael Rapino, Andre Harrell, Alex Avant
Runtime: 80 min.
The #Tribeca2017 Film Festival runs from April 19 – 30 in New York City
Follow Film & TV Editor Curtis Caesar John on Twitter (@MediaManCurt)