Sean “Puffy” Combs won’t mind if critics say his latest album is raw, unpolished and without any real theme. That’s the way he planned it.
After a year in which he successfully fought criminal charges and lost his high-profile girlfriend, the hip-hop mogul just wanted to put out something that would make people want to party.
“That’s why everything is so carefree, everything is so positive,” he said of his new album, which is being released the same week he makes his acting debut (as a gangster) in the movie “Made.”
“I lived in a murky pit – a negative, murky pit for like a year and half straight.”
Combs’ album is titled “P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family… The Saga Continues.” (Puffy moniker fans, take heart – he still goes by the name of Puffy, or Puff Daddy. He says an announcement after the trial that he was switching his name exclusively to P. Diddy was just a joke). It features numerous artists from his Bad Boy record label, and is as much of a showcase album for them as it is for Combs.
The disc is coming out four months after he was acquitted of weapons and bribery charges stemming from a 1999 nightclub shooting. Combs hasn’t released an album since 1999’s “Forever” album, but he has remained a fixture in the headlines with the trial, his romance and breakup with actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, and the success of his clothing line, Sean John.
“This will be the true test to see if he has completely oversaturated himself in the public’s eye or not,” said Vibe magazine Editor in Chief Emil Wilbekin. “The one thing I think is brave of Puffy with this album is to put himself out there with his music so quickly after the whole trial incident… He’s basically jumping back into the game headfirst.”
“Forever” was a commercial disappointment for Combs. It sold just 1.4 million copies while his 1997 debut album, “No Way Out,” sold 5 million, according to Soundscan.
Still, L.A. Reid, president of Arista Records, which is releasing Combs’ album, has high hopes for it. “We have a great shot to come at the top of the charts with this,” he said.
One of the album’s more noteworthy aspects is that it contains no samples from other recordings – a departure for Combs, whose work has often been maligned for its reliance on hooks from other people’s hits.
But Combs said the decision against sampling wasn’t planned, and denies he’s overused the technique in his songs.
“I’ve been making records for a long time, I had a bunch of No. 1 records, and a lot of them didn’t have samples,” he said.
Combs, who appeared on MTV’s “Total Request Live” and “Live with Regis & Kelly” on Tuesday, said he wanted to tamp down the hype for this album, explaining that he didn’t want it to be “one of those overanticipated, long lead-in, setup albums that people overthink.”
“I want to put out an album that has no deep meaning, it doesn’t have no inner thoughts or anything like that, it’s just 14 hot records that you can turn on in your Jeep, in your house, in your club, and listen to and enjoy.”
Wilbekin said those kinds of records are Combs’ strength. “I think Puffy is the king of that,” Wilbekin said. “He does really great kind of club anthem songs.”
Partying was far from Combs’ thoughts during his legal troubles and trial, which resulted in a 10-year jail sentence for his protege, Shyne. Combs said he found it difficult to concentrate on anything else, personally and professionally.
“It was a very nerve-racking, concerning situation. I had a lot of concerns. That became my priority. I had to work not to be pulled down,” he said. “So doing that, it’s like so stressful, like, it’s not a pleasant place to be in and making music.”
A recent Talk magazine suggested his legal troubles were not over, and claimed he was the subject of three criminal investigations. But Combs denied that, and two of the agencies that Talk said were investigating Combs denied they were. Talk stood by the story.
Combs lamented some of the tabloid stories about him, many of which focused on the Lopez breakup. He won’t talk about that, but denied rumors he’s dating two supermodels.
“I really don’t have anything to discuss, because I’m not seeing nobody,” he said, laughing.
Reid, who’s known Combs for years, said the trial made Combs more mellow. “I see a focus in him and overall a nicer person,” he said.
Combs agrees that the experience left him a changed man. “I was just in a personal situation that could do nothing but humble you,” he said. “I’m just glad y’all catching me at a good place right now, which is a positive place…. I don’t think it’s all that serious for me now.”