Puff Daddy Speaks On Working To Be A Living & Breathing Example Of Black Excellence
Sean “Puffy Daddy” Combs is the latest guest on The Touré Show. The founder of Bad Boy Worldwide recently sat before a live Manhattan audience and spoke about his family, his health, and trailblazing role in Black culture for nearly one hour. Unlike some recent interviews with Diddy, this conversation does not focus on specific moments in his illustrious career or the people with whom he’s been associated. The intimate conversation (despite its onlookers) mentions few people by name (short of James Brown, Oprah Winfrey, and Puffy’s six children). However, much like JAY-Z’s recent New York Times interview, the chat is a philosophical and insightful portal into one of the visionary minds that has shaped popular culture over the last 25 years.
Much of the conversation’s focus is on what Puff refers to as “Black Excellence.” A theme that permeates his replies, whether addressing his negotiating prowess or the team he is building around him, is his belief that he is achieving things for more than just himself. At 22 minutes, the entrepreneur who secured Bad Boy’s backing through a 1993 multi-million dollar partnership with Clive Davis’ Arista Records, describes the motivation behind his fierce negotiating skills. “Let’s get to being able to take care of ourselves. I have a certain type of knack of doing business where I know how to get the deal done, ’cause I’m going for [the] end-result. It’s not [just] monetary, it’s for us to succeed with what we’re doing.” Touré brings up how being Black can be a barrier in deal-making, and recalls Puffy’s quote of saying, “I wasn’t allowing them to treat me like a Black man.” Touré asks his guest how that is achieved. Combs answers, “You have to be able to walk away. There’s a lot of cats out here that get a taste of the money and when it comes time to doing that deal and really being in that ruthless negotiation, they really can’t stomach walking away. I’m really, really crazy. I will walk away. We could be at $43 million. If I want 45 and I’m just deserving of that [and] that is the rate, you’re gonna give me $45 million. And I want to explain to you why: because I set the market value for my people. You’ve got to understand that. When I walked into BMG and Arista and set the price at $46 million, that changed the whole game. The only thing that’s really changed for us since [the] Civil Rights [Movement] was Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop has been our only hope. So when I’m out there and in the business and doing it for the culture [I only accept the price that I set]. It doesn’t even effect me no more after I set it; it effects everybody that’s coming after me.” Labels like Roc-A-Fella, No Limit, and Cash Money followed in that path of partnership.
Later in The Touré Show interview, Puffy provides a detailed definition for his view of “Black Excellence.” At 28:00, Combs says, “There is a difference [between ‘Black Excellence’ and that of other races]. The difference is that we haven’t really forcefully tapped into our excellence. Sometimes you can possess magic or superpowers and be afraid of them. You’re afraid to tap into them. I remember ‘Superman,’ he ain’t really want to fly [at first]. We have this magic about us that that we were able to be brought over [to America] to be treated the way we’ve been treated, and we still get up with love in our hearts now. Like, sh*t could be crazy! Pain is pain; we get up with love in our hearts and we still have to deal with that pressure. It’s f*cked up, [and] you hear it all the time and it sounds cliché. You’re Black, you wake up, ‘Damn, some f*cked up sh*t could happen to me today.’ No matter who you are. That’s a hard way to live: in fear.” He says that “Black Excellence” is “really when we tap into our magic. When you see those things: Oprah [Winfrey] when she’s doing her thing, and see all these kids online and they’re crafting—artists [and] comedians. You watch Dave Chappelle. Or you look at how our brilliant minds right now are going and being engineers, scientists, and doctors. It’s really changing the narrative. ‘Cause if you just constantly get negativity…there’s an image about you. You’re born a slave, [you are] ‘this.’ Then you get a couple of things like The Cosby Show, or Puff [and] Bad Boy—a couple of wins and things like that, but we’ve got to promote our greatness, because the things that we have to deal with get so overly promoted and marketed to us. I have to be part of the change. I have to be part of the narrative. I’m entering the psychological warfare to hit y’all with different images to reset your mind. We can elevate.”
Puffy’s reference to psychological warfare is not just a catchphrase. Recently, he’s begun meditating, in his quest to continue improving. He says of the practice “I’m just taking time to give gratitude and pray, and that really changed my life…it’s nothing mystical about it. It’s you taking time [for you]. “I [take] that time for myself. Life is a crazy contradiction, ’cause on one side I beat myself up real hard, and on the other side I saw things deeper. It’s just a part of growing up.” When Touré asks about what types of things Puff’s inner voice says to him–whether he is prone to self-criticism or self-praise–Combs gives a vibrant example of the narrative of Black Excellence he has crafted within. Mimicking his inner voice, Puff says “You the baddest muthaf*cka that He ever built! You’re a king, King! Put it on ’em, King! Get ’em, Puff! F*ck ’em up! Yeah! Yeah! Win for the people! It’s for the kids! Let’s do it! Black Excellence, let’s go!!”
Combs’ exhortations of Black Excellence extend to his children also. When asked about the values he instills in his kids, Puffy says “I’m a parent like how I was raised. I was raised to really have self-respect, respect for my family name; to be competitive in school; being a gentleman; being a man-evolving, growing. So, I come from a rich heritage. We as Black people, once we tap in, we come from a very, very rich heritage of that level of love and raising, and that’s what I instill in my kids. I make sure they just don’t know their African-American history where they start off as slaves. I make sure they know their whole history, the history they didn’t teach in schools. Making sure they know that they’re kings and that they’re queens. That’s the biggest message that I give to them.”
Elsewhere in the interview, when asked about his position on the Forbes’ list and whether it’s important to him to increase his net worth from $800 million to $1 billion, Puffy answers matter-of-factly “Without a doubt.” As he expounds, however, it becomes clear that his response is not solely rooted in his desire for material gain. Once again, he speaks in terms of not only advancing himself, but Black people, generally. “That’s one of the things that I think we’ve always shied away from is economic power. I represent the first wave of Black economic power. We will see this continue to flourish and we’ll see this start to grow our communities, and we’ll be able to help ourselves out. So, being on that list, it is important…So, it’s something that I’m proud to be a part of, and I take pride in changing the narrative.”
#BonusBeat: Last month, Touré interviewed Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA for the show. The Abbott spoke about the regrets he carries regarding the last days of Ol’ Dirty Bastard: