In the latest installment of Music Talks, entertainment industry titan Andre Harrell sits down with own mentee, Sean "Diddy" Combs. Friends and colleagues for nearly 30 years, the two candidly discuss the REVOLT TV Chairman's life, both personal and professional. In their discussion, Combs details his time as an Uptown Records intern, recalling his pursuit of Heavy D, learning to produce with Jodeci, and crafting the sound and style of Mary J. Blige, all while admittedly spending his days trying to impress and make Harrell proud. He also touched on his early days with Biggie, and his goals with companies like Sean John and CIROC.
Watch the interview and read excerpts below.
ON HIS BRAND: I always have, kind of, built my persona using the muse of P.T. Barnum. And P.T. Barnum, he wasn't like the most talented person that was out there, but he was presenting the lions and tigers and bears and all of the midgets in the cars and the lady with the sword and the trapeze, and that was his forte and that's my forte as a platform, as a collaborator, as a producer, a curator. And so, performing in that aspect of being the conductor, the Wizard of Oz for all this talent that I've nurtured to come out and to entertain you, is something that I love.
ON LESSONS LEARNED AT UPTOWN RECORDS: It was a 'champagne lifestyle' that was just different. Like, you was getting money, you was conscious about what you was wearing, you liked dressing up, you probably was gonna move to [New] Jersey and get a condo, but it was like you were thinking 'upwardly mobile.' That was the term around then, so you was Black and you was moving, but you was still going back to the hood. You had that best of both worlds, but you was moving on up. And so, I wanted to be down with what was moving on up. I wasn't down with the gritty-gritty, 'let's keep it real,' 'I'm mad.' I wanted to dance and celebrate and pop some bottles and get rich and buy me a mansion.
ON SIGNING BIGGIE: I had just got the opportunity to get some success as an A&R person. Anything that we was touching, it was selling and it was taking over the culture. I'm business-conscious, so I'm starting to push for things. 'I'm telling you, I have this dream and vision for Bad Boy that's a little bit left, it's a little bit younger from where Uptown is at. Can you give me a production deal?' At this point it was no loss for you. ... I was hotter than a motherfucker, so it really made sense. I was looking for artists, so I was reading The Source and I read Unsigned Hype. People know I went and pursued Biggie, and how the story goes on from there, but they don't know that when Biggie first signed, he was signed to Uptown. I had the management and I had a production deal, but he wouldn't be signed to my label.
ON HIS FASHION ENDEAVORS WITH SEAN JOHN: I was getting market value. I wasn't allowing them to treat me like a black man. Matter of fact, my blackness and me coming from this culture, is going to be more expensive than the pop group or the rock group, because I know that hip-hop is the number one genre of music. That's the way I treated that, and the way I treated fashion. It was just numbers to me. I wouldn't allow you to bring color in business. I would bring color in business, and it was going to cost you more to get this unforgivable blackness. ... It wasn't to get the cars, it was a point to me to really show our value."
'Music Talks: Sean "Diddy" Combs' airs online Wednesday, August 30 at 12am ET. And on REVOLT TV on Tuesday, September 19 at 10pm ET.
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