MINNEAPOLIS — This is the way Diddy rolls: After a one-hour postponement, his publicist called five separate times to say “Puff” (that’s what his people call him) will be phoning in five minutes.
In the interim, Puff’s two female partners in Diddy Dirty Money actually called for a five-minute chat. But no Diddy. Just another five-minute warning. Which wasn’t accurate, of course.
Finally, a couple hours after this drama began, came a one-minute warning. I sensed that Puff would really be calling. And, five minutes later, he did.
“Hey. How are you? Hold on a second,” he greeted.
Ah, only a 50-second delay as the hip-hop mogul returned to the phone, apologizing profusely for the tardiness.
“It’s been one of those days trying to finish up for this tour and making sure that some stuff was ordered,” he said, referring to the Diddy Dirty Money tour.
But he still had time to tweet at least four times while I was awaiting his call.
“I’ve got my assistant next to me so as I’m on the phone taking care of stuff with the tour, I’m telling her what to say (on Twitter),” explained Diddy, aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Sean Combs and @iamdiddy.
For the past several days, Diddy, a Twitter-holic, has been tweeting in overdrive, especially about his tour.
“I’ve never done a club tour,” he said. “Those are the concerts I go to because I like the up-close-and-personal vibe. But I’ve never been on the other side. It’s a new area for me. That’s why I’m so excited. When you do arenas and stadiums, there’s like a glass wall between you and the audience. This right here has you fully exposed to them and they’re fully exposed to you.”
Moreover, he is honored that his first exposure will be in the downtown Minneapolis club formerly owned by Prince. The Purple One was a major inspiration for Diddy Dirty Money’s current “Last Train To Paris” album, Diddy explained.
“He’s such a genius. You’ll see so much Minneapolis inspiration in the tour and in the music. One of the other motivations to do an up-close-and-personal tour was all those times that I saw Prince in up-close-and-personal venues. I just can’t wait.”
What can club-goers expect from Diddy Dirty Money?
“Something refreshing,” said the tireless hypeman with an even-toned voice. “You’re not going to see the same show you see from everyone else. You’re going to see lots of lights, cameras, action, soul and hit records. It’s going to be like a party. A lot of upbeat music and some emotional music and some incredible vocals.”
In a separate interview, Dawn Richards and Kalenna — those aforementioned incredible vocalists of Diddy Dirty Money — promised a catalog of Puff Daddy hits, including “I’ll Be Missing You” and “Last Night.”
“You can’t go any place with Diddy in the building without doing some of the hits because those are classics that need to be brought up to get the crowd moving,” said Richards, a former member of Danity Kane, which Diddy put together on MTV’s “Making the Band 3.” “It’s a ‘Last Train To Paris’ concert but we have to give you a Bad Boy (Records) taste throughout the years.”
“Last Train To Paris” is probably the most critically acclaimed album of Diddy’s long career in hip-hop. It’s an arresting mashup of ‘80s R&B European dance music, old-school hip-hop, electro-pop and movie music.
The album yielded the current hit “Coming Home,” a smooth pop/soul song featuring red-hot vocalist Skylar Grey (who’s also featured on recent hits Dr. Dre and Lupe Fiasco). Why did Diddy use Grey when he already has two top-notch vocalists in Diddy Dirty Money?
“Skylar Grey’s voice is beautiful. Skylar Grey was like one of 15 guest appearances,” the boss explained. “It’s not like I don’t respect my talent because I let Justin Timberlake do a verse or let Drake do a verse. Same thing: We want to work with great artists. We don’t have a problem with sharing the spotlight. That’s what makes it better when you play with great people.”
Diddy’s mind never stops. Just read his barrage of tweets at 4 a.m. and again at 9 or so. Not only is he a music mogul (he helped boost the careers of Mary J. Blige, the Notorious B.I.G. and Jennifer Lopez, among others) but he is an actor (film’s “Get Him to the Greek,” Broadway’s “A Raisin in the Sun”), reality TV star (“Making of the Band”) and entrepreneur with a line of clothes (Sean John), a restaurant (Justin’s) and a premium vodka (Ciroc). In 2010, Forbes ranked Diddy as the richest person in hip-hop, worth $475 million.
What percentage of his income comes from music-related stuff?
“To be honest, I’d say 100 percent. The music is my foundation. You can’t go to higher floors and diversify if your first floor isn’t intact. It doesn’t hurt this week having the No. 8 single on the charts, it doesn’t hurt doing ‘American Idol,’ it doesn’t hurt signing Janelle Monae.”
Born Sean Combs in Harlem, the 41-year-old calls himself a “very complex individual.” Or, as he raps in “Coming Home”: “It’s easy to be Puff but it’s harder to be Sean.” He has been looking at the man in the mirror a lot lately.
“Everyone expects me to be the personna I created but that’s not how I am at home,” said the father of five. “Sometimes you get stuck in that and you get lost as a person; I didn’t turn it off in personal situations. The record is very honest and vulnerable and talking about things that I’ve worked on changing about myself and getting control over. We all have our struggles personally. I’m going through a metamorphosis and evolution on the personal side. Change hurts. Evolution hurts. Sacrifice and discipline, it’s not easy. My focus is becoming the best person I can be.”
What makes him Diddy?
“The swag, Diddy is swag.”
What makes him giddy?
“Probably reruns of ‘Martin’ (Martin Lawrence’s 1990s sitcom) and a turkey sandwich. It don’t really take a lot. Maybe a little bit of sex in between that with my woman. That’s a great day for me.”
A publicist jumps on the line and warns: Two more questions.
What’s the smartest thing he’s ever done?
“Believe in myself all the time. I don’t think my belief has ever wavered because of the way anybody feels about me or perceives me. I don’t get caught up in the naysayers or the negativity or perceptions, that doesn’t slow my grind down.”
The dumbest thing?
“I probably should have found a way to invest in Twitter before I started tweeting and before I went on ‘Ellen’ and every other show advertising it. But it’s fun.”