Sean “Diddy” Combs is the star of Variety Magazine‘s July issue, and the hip-hop mogul dives into “hot-button topics of race” while tackling his various business endeavors and the music business landscape in the featured cover story. Diddy “condemns the industry’s paltry investment in black enterprise despite capitalizing on its success” and promotes his philosophy of “We, not me.”
Read a few takeaways from the interview below, as the issue is out on newsstands now.
On hip-hop’s commercial dominance, especially through streaming, and his motivation of being one of America’s most visible and successful black business figures.
D: “You have these record companies that are making so much money off our culture, our art form, but they’re not investing or even believing in us. For all the billions of dollars that these black executives have been able to make them, [there’s still hesitation] to put them in the top-level positions. They’ll go and they’ll recruit cats from overseas.”
He continues, “It makes sense to give [executives of color] a chance and embrace the evolution, instead of it being that we can only make it to president, senior VP… There’s no black CEO of a major record company. That’s just as bad as the fact that there are no [black] majority owners in the NFL. That’s what really motivates me.”
On his thoughts of the current music business landscape in which he came of age.
D: “There was segregation, as well as blatant racism, and there still is.” He adds, “Black Panther was a cruel experiment, because we live in 2018, and it’s the first time that the film industry gave us a fair playing field on a worldwide blockbuster, and the hundreds of millions it takes to make it.”
On harnessing the means of production is the only way forward, and the organizing principle of his various businesses.
D: “We only get 5% of the venture capital invested in things that are black owned — black-owned businesses, black-owned ideas, black-owned IP. You can’t do anything without that money, without resources. But when we do get the resources, we over-deliver. When adidas invests in Kanye and it’s done properly, you have the right results. When Live Nation invests in artists and puts them in arenas the same way U2 would be, you have the right results. Black Panther, Black-ish, fashion; it’s all about access. If you’re blocked out of the resources, you can’t compete. And that’s my whole thing — to be able to come and compete.”
On the #metoo movement and how that relates to black America.
D: “I’m not gonna be anybody’s judge and jury. But I will say that nobody should feel like they’re getting taken advantage of or getting abused when they’re just trying to create a livelihood for themselves. There are a bunch of injustices going on, and the same fire and vigor that people have about the #MeToo movement, I think it’s time that they have that about the way black America has been treated too.”
On his cable network Revolt TV.
D: “The African-American voice is the No. 1 voice being heard and digested by the world; Revolt brings an unapologetic view of that. Revolt is not just a cable television network, that never was the plan. We were always social by design — multiplatform. People try to put it in boxes, and it’s not gonna be that. It’s gonna jump on your phone; it’s gonna be on all your screens. Linear cable is not the future; the future is in the actual brand being a multiplatform provider of premium content.”
On being haunted by a catastrophic race riot that devastated an Oklahoma community back in 1921.
D: “I think a lot about Black Wall Street,” he says, referring to the Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, where black entrepreneurs once built a robust local economy, only to have it all destroyed by a white mob. “The black people in this community were thriving, and others were having to look at them thriving because they had their own banks and supermarkets. Income was being cultivated, and they were having a lot of success. And so the white mob burned the town, lynched people to send a psychological message. And it worked. The message was, if y’all come together, if you thrive, this is what’s gonna happen.”
On gentrification of his home neighborhood of Harlem.
D: “Gentrification is heartbreaking. When I go back to New York, the energy doesn’t feel the same — the nightlife, the excitement, the provocativeness. In Harlem you still feel that, even though the community has gotten displaced and shrunk. Like, where are the black people at?”
Adding, “It’s a beautiful place to grow up. You’re empowered by knowing your history. You can envision Malcolm X speaking on 125th, the ’20s at the Cotton Club, Langston Hughes, Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry. … There was such a deep sense of culture. When you’re born in Harlem, you’re taught how to dress nice on $5. You understand presentation, where your sneakers always have to be fresh, and the necessity of dance. … We’re just natural-born hustlers.”
On his Sean John fashion label.
D: “With fashion, to be candid, I was looking for validation, and Sean John gave birth to a lot. Sean John taught Virgil [Abloh]. It taught Kanye West. It taught a whole generation of designers that come from our culture. But also Gucci learned from it, Louis Vuitton learned from it, Givenchy, Balenciaga. So much of fashion is streetwear now, and the tipping point was Sean John. … I was the first to bring street wear to the runways, and now street wear [is] a multibillion-dollar industry where people are actually looking for the talent that’s coming from the community, giving them the resources, believing in them and benefiting from that.”
On not releasing any albums since 2010’s Last Train to Paris, which garnered some of the best reviews of his solo career yet was also his most disappointing seller.
D: “Musically, that was the one that broke my heart, because I knew it was dope. But that’s part of the game. You gotta have those. Throughout your career you should do things that you really, really believe in, and take a chance.”
On plotting his next act in music.
D: “I feel like we’re in a new disruptive time, and when I announce what I’m doing with music it’ll be equally as disruptive as Bad Boy was. My focus now is more on Revolt and on supporting other labels, other musicians. I want to go from being on the stage to actually being the stage — from being the entrepreneur to supporting other entrepreneurs, but still with that same Bad Boy attitude. Right now, I look for executive talent, creative talent, just like I used to look for rap artists and singers. It’s about me going to a new level and empowering the next generations of Bad Boy and Diddy.”
For the full story, head on over to Variety now.